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A Journal on Otorhinolaryngology, Head and Neck Surgery,
Plastic Reconstructive Surgery, Otoneurosurgery

Indexed/Abstracted in: EMBASE, Scopus




Otorinolaringologia 2009 March;59(1):43-51


language: English

Salivary glands imaging

Tagliabue L. 1, Gilardi L. 1, Del Sole A. 1, Flor N. 2, Cornalba G. P. 2

1 Unit of Nuclear Medicine Institute of Radiological Sciences, University of Milan Hospital San Paolo, Milan, Italy 2 Unit of Radiology Institute of Radiological Sciences, University of Milan Hospital San Paolo, Milan, Italy


Several modalities are available for salivary gland imaging, such as ultrasonography (US), computed tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), sialography and scintigraphy. The aim of this review was to illustrate the role of imaging in evaluating salivary gland diseases. US is usually the first-line technique in suspected sialolithiasis. Secondly, also CT may be used. It has demonstrated a high accuracy in detecting the presence of calculi and it is more accurate than US in distinguishing multiple clusters of stones from single large stone. CT is also important in the evaluation of salivary glands masses associated with obstructive or inflammatory process; in the other cases MRI is the technique of choice, as it allows to better detect perineural, meningeal and skull base invasion. Conventional sialography is useful in case of chronic infections, tumours and calculi but is an invasive technique burdened by drawbacks and complications. To obtain simultaneously morphologic and functional information scintigraphy is a solution: its main clinical indications consist in evaluation of salivary glands function and salivary excretion in autoimmune disease or after irradiation of head and neck district. This imaging method may also help to diagnose Warthin’s tumour and it is especially useful in elderly patients with surgical containdications or in patients with multiple parotid masses.

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