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Int J Oral Maxillofac Surg. 1994 Feb;23(1):22-7.

Value of magnetic resonance imaging in staging carcinomas of the oral cavity and oropharynx.

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Clinic for Maxillofacial Surgery, University Clinic Rudolf Virchow, Free University of Berlin, Germany.


The value of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) in preoperative tumor (T) staging was assessed prospectively in 46 patients with malignant carcinomas of the oropharynx and oral cavity. In each case, the MRI findings were compared with the preoperative clinical and postoperative histopathologic findings. MRI showed an accuracy of 89% in identifying the T stage, as compared with the histopathologic result. The accuracy of the clinical examination was 78%. Compared with the clinical examination, MRI is particularly suited for differentiating T3/T4 and the larger T2 tumors. MRI tends to overinterpret the T stage when the neighboring tissues are inflamed or edematous, as it allows no demarcation between inflamed or edematous tissue and tumor. Moreover, normal oropharyngeal mucous membrane and intrinsic tongue muscle both absorb contrast medium. In the clinical examination, the T stage is often underestimated, as the depth of infiltration and bone involvement cannot always be determined with certainty. The ability of MRI to give an axial, coronal, and sagittal image allows an exact preoperative view of tumor spread and assessment of infiltration into adjacent structures.

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