Utility of Temporal Bone Computed Tomography in Pediatric Emergency Medicine

Sarah Benyo, Darrin V. Benn, Robert A. Saadi, Linda Gangai, Kathryn E. Kasmire, Huseyin Isildak, Neerav Goyal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: Temporal bone computed tomography (CT) requires a relatively high radiation dose to produce high-resolution images required to define surgical anatomy. In the acute setting, the need for this detailed evaluation of temporal bone pathology may not be required for nonsurgical management and clinical decision-making. We performed a retrospective review of the clinical characteristics and subsequent management of children who underwent CT of the temporal bone with the goal of optimizing clinical decision-making and mitigating the risks of radiation exposure in children. Methods: We included pediatric patients (<18 years of age) with International Classification of Diseases (9th or 10th revision) diagnoses consistent with otitis externa, otitis media, mastoiditis, head trauma, temporal bone fracture, and otalgia who were treated in the emergency department and underwent temporal bone CT from January 1, 2012-December 31, 2016. We collected data regarding the patients' presenting symptoms, physical exam findings, indications for imaging, radiographic findings, disposition, and operative intervention within 30 days of imaging. Features of the suspected mastoiditis group were compared between operative and non-operative patients. Results: Over the four-year study period there were 96 temporal bone CTs. Most studies (70%) were associated with a subsequent inpatient admission. Common indications for imaging included evaluation of acute mastoiditis (55%) or trauma (41%). Of the 53 patients with concern for mastoiditis, 27 (51%) required otologic surgery. Two patients in the trauma group required surgical intervention, both for facial nerve decompression. In patients with suspected mastoiditis, mental status changes (P = 0.02), auricular proptosis (P = 0.05), and fluctuance (P = 0.02) were significantly more prevalent in the operative group; however, no other findings were significantly associated with operative intervention. Conclusion: Temporal bone CT is beneficial in guiding diagnosis and management of acute mastoiditis. We found that a majority of patients with suspected mastoiditis who underwent temporal bone CT ultimately required surgery or hospital admission. However, the potential for reduction in the use of CT still exists in this population. Fractures of the temporal bone typically do not require urgent operative intervention in the absence of complete facial nerve paralysis; thus, the utility of temporal bone CT in trauma evaluation may be limited.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)238-246
Number of pages9
JournalWestern Journal of Emergency Medicine
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Emergency Medicine


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