Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery

, Volume 18, Issue 2, pp 201–206 | Cite as

Patterns of cervicofacial infections: analysis of the use of computed tomography

  • Sunil Dutt Sharma
  • Sri Mahalingam
  • Leandros Vassiliou
  • Stephen Connor
  • Kathleen Fan
Original Article



The aim of this study was to determine which clinical, microbiological and radiological factors contribute to the need for repeated computed tomography (CT) imaging and surgical drainage.


In this retrospective study, medical records of all patients who underwent surgical drainage of cervicofacial infections between January 2006 and August 2010 at a London tertiary referral centre were analysed. Patients who underwent CT due to a clinical suspicion of deep cervicofacial infection were divided into two groups: (1) single CT only and (2) repeated CT imaging. These groups were then compared using Fisher’s exact test. Patients requiring return to theatre for additional exploration and drainage of collection were also analysed.


Four hundred and forty-five patients were admitted with cervicofacial infections, of whom 78 patients had a CT scan. The most frequent site of infection was the submandibular space, involving 54 % of patients. Among the patients who underwent repeated imaging compared to those who underwent a single CT scan, the parapharyngeal space was involved significantly more frequently (5/24 vs 2/54, p = 0.03), as was the presence of multiple-space infections (13/24 vs 15/54, p = 0.04) and osteomyelitis (4/24 vs 0/54, p = 0.007). Multiple-space infection was also more frequent in the group who required repeat visits to theatre as compared to those who had a single drainage (7/9 vs 23/69, p = 0.02).


The majority of cervicofacial infections are managed without the need for CT scanning. Presence of infection in multiple cervicofacial spaces and in the parapharyngeal space and presence of osteomyelitis result in persistent sepsis necessitating repeat imaging and drainage.


Cervicofacial infections Computed tomography Imaging Neck abscesses 



The authors are gratefully thankful to Taija Nicoli for her technical help.

Conflict of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sunil Dutt Sharma
    • 1
  • Sri Mahalingam
    • 1
  • Leandros Vassiliou
    • 1
  • Stephen Connor
    • 2
  • Kathleen Fan
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Oral and Maxillofacial SurgeryKing’s College HospitalLondonUK
  2. 2.Department of NeuroradiologyKing’s College HospitalLondonUK

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