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Does CT have an additional diagnostic value over ultrasound in the evaluation of acute inflammatory neck masses in children?



We assessed the additional value of contrast-enhanced CT versus US for evaluation of acute cervical inflammatory masses and choosing treatment strategy.


We retrospectively reviewed 210 files of paediatric patients admitted with an acute inflammatory neck mass from 2005 to 2008 (M:F = 108:102, mean age 4.5 years). All patients underwent diagnostic ultrasound and Doppler of the neck; CT was performed in 25 patients within 2–72 h. Clinical and radiological findings were correlated, and imaging impact on patient management was assessed.


In the 210 patients, US provided sufficient information in 184 of 185 (99.5%) patients undergoing only US. In one patient with no sonographic evidence of collection, an abscess was drained surgically on the point of fluctuation. Fluid collections were drained in 17 patients based on US findings; inflammatory processes were managed conservatively in 164. CT provided additional information in 4 of 25 patients (16.0%), revealing airways compromise in 2 and collections in 2.


US provided sufficient information about the nature, location, and extent of the inflammatory mass in 97.6% of our patients, suggesting it should be the main, and generally single, imaging technique in these patients. CT should be reserved for patients with an aggravating clinical course and suspicion of deep neck infection or airways compromise.

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The authors did not receive outside funding for this research. None of the authors has any conflict of interest with a company that produces or distributes a product mentioned herein.

The authors wish to thank Shifra Fraifeld, a research associate in the Department of Radiology, for her editorial assistance in the preparation of this manuscript.

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Correspondence to Katya Rozovsky.

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Rozovsky, K., Hiller, N., Koplewitz, B.Z. et al. Does CT have an additional diagnostic value over ultrasound in the evaluation of acute inflammatory neck masses in children?. Eur Radiol 20, 484–490 (2010).

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  • Paediatric
  • CT
  • Inflammatory mass
  • Neck
  • Ultrasound
  • Management