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Papers of the Week

2021 Jan 21

AJNR Am J Neuroradiol

Skull Base Osteomyelitis: A Comprehensive Imaging Review.


Chapman PR, Choudhary G, Singhal A
AJNR Am J Neuroradiol. 2021 Jan 21.
PMID: 33478944.


Skull base osteomyelitis is a relatively rare condition, generally occurring as a complication of advanced otologic or sinus infection in immunocompromised patients. Skull base osteomyelitis is generally divided into 2 broad categories: typical and atypical. Typical skull base osteomyelitis occurs secondary to uncontrolled infection of the temporal bone region, most often from necrotizing external otitis caused by in a patient with diabetes. Atypical skull base osteomyelitis occurs in the absence of obvious temporal bone infection or external auditory canal infection. It may be secondary to advanced sinusitis or deep face infection or might occur in the absence of a known local source of infection. Atypical skull base osteomyelitis preferentially affects the central skull base and can be caused by bacterial or fungal infections. Clinically, typical skull base osteomyelitis presents with signs and symptoms of otitis externa or other temporal bone infection. Both typical and atypical forms can produce nonspecific symptoms including headache and fever, and progress to cranial neuropathies and meningitis. Early diagnosis can be difficult both clinically and radiologically, and the diagnosis is often delayed. Radiologic evaluation plays a critical role in the diagnosis of skull base osteomyelitis, with CT and MR imaging serving complementary roles. CT best demonstrates cortical and trabecular destruction of bone. MR imaging is best for determining the overall extent of disease and best demonstrates involvement of marrow space and extraosseous soft tissue. Nuclear medicine studies can also be contributory to diagnosis and follow-up. The goal of this article was to review the basic pathophysiology, clinical findings, and key radiologic features of skull base osteomyelitis.