Ear pain in patients with oropharynx carcinoma: how MRI contributes to the explanation of a prognostic and predictive symptom
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Reflex otalgia is a predictive and prognostic parameter for local control in patients with oropharynx carcinoma. Can a morphologic correlate of this important symptom be detected by MRI? Thirty-six patients were prospectively evaluated by MRI before radical radiotherapy. Sixteen patients had reflex otalgia; 20 did not. The oropharynx and adjacent regions were analyzed. Alteration was defined as effacement of anatomical structures, signal alteration or enhancement after contrast medium administration. The χ2-test was used to compare categorical parameters. In patients with reflex otalgia, alteration of the following structures innervated by the glossopharyngeal nerve were found significantly more often: nasopharynx, hard palate, superior constrictor pharyngis muscle, palatine tonsil, palatopharyngeus muscle, palatoglossus muscle, stylopharyngeus muscle, hyoglossus muscle and preepiglottic space. No difference was found for the muscles of mastication, levator and tensor veli palatini muscles, styloglossus muscle, genioglossus muscle, intrinsic muscles of the tongue, digastric muscles, mucosal surface of the lateral and posterior pharyngeal wall, uvula, valleculae, parapharyngeal space and larynx. An alteration of structures innervated by the glossopharyngeal nerve was visualized on MRI significantly more often when reflex otalgia was present. Involvement of structures innervated by other cranial nerves did not show the same association with ear pain.
KeywordsHead and neck neoplasms Oropharynx Magnetic resonance imaging Earache
We thank E. Stauffer, MD, for the histologic slides, S.C. Marré, MD, for the data acquisition, and H. Mattle, MD, for helpful comments.
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