To determine the diagnostic performance of diffusion-weighted magnetic resonance imaging in the assessment of patients with suspected, but not clinically evident, cholesteatoma.
A retrospective analysis of a prospectively collected database of non-echo-planar diffusion-weighted magnetic resonance imaging studies (using a half-Fourier single-shot turbo-spin echo sequence) was conducted. Clinical records were retrospectively reviewed to determine indications for imaging and operative findings. Seventy-eight investigations in 74 patients with suspected cholesteatoma aged 5.7–79.2 years (mean, 41.7 years) were identified. Operative confirmation was available in 44 ears. Diagnostic accuracy of the imaging technique was calculated using operative findings as a ‘gold standard’. Sensitivity of the investigation was examined via comparison with clinically evident cholesteatoma.
The accuracy of diffusion-weighted magnetic resonance imaging in assessment of suspected cholesteatoma was 63.6 per cent. The imaging technique was significantly less accurate in assessment of suspected cholesteatoma than clinically evident disease (p < 0.001).
Computed tomography and diffusion-weighted magnetic resonance imaging may be complementary in assessment of suspected cholesteatoma, but should be used with caution, and clinical judgement is paramount.
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