To determine: (1) the incidence of incidental ‘mastoiditis’ reported on magnetic resonance imaging scans performed in patients with asymmetrical sensorineural hearing loss and/or unilateral tinnitus; (2) how many of those patients have actual otological pathology and/or require treatment; and (3) the financial implications of such a reporting practice.
Retrospective case series.
Between October 2015 and November 2016, 500 patients underwent magnetic resonance imaging of the internal auditory meatus to rule out cerebellopontine angle lesions. There was an incidental finding of increased mastoid signalling in 5.8 per cent (n = 29), of which 20.7 per cent (6 of 29) were reported as bilateral cases. The diagnosis of ‘mastoiditis’ was found in 39.7 per cent (29 of 73). None of these patients had any pathology identified clinically. Other significant pathology was identified in a further 8.8 per cent (n = 44).
The diagnosis of mastoiditis is primarily clinical. An incidental finding of high signalling in the mastoid region on magnetic resonance imaging is highly unlikely to represent actual clinical disease. In patients who are scanned for other reasons and who do not complain of otological symptoms, such findings are unlikely to require otolaryngology input.
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