Does incidental mastoid opacification on computerized tomography necessitate referral to ENT?
OBJECTIVE: The prevalence of incidental temporal bone disease on magnetic resonance imaging has been widely reported in the medical literature. Despite this, there currently is little evidence regarding incidental otological disease on computerized tomography (CT). Thus, the study aimed to review the CT prevalence of asymptomatic adult ear disease and evaluate the appropriateness of ear, nose, and throat (ENT) referral following its discovery. STUDY DESIGN: Retrospective observational study of 468 CT scans. METHODS: All CT head scans performed between January 2015 and January 2016 containing the keyword mastoid in the radiological report initially were recruited for the study. Scans performed in the pediatric population following head trauma or for otological indications were excluded, leaving 468 eligible radiological images. The presence of prior otological disease or referral subsequently was established using electronic patient records. RESULTS: Mastoid and/or middle ear opacification was noted to be present in 62 patients (13%). Of these patients, 10 subsequently were found to have prior otological intervention or review. Following exclusion of these patients, the rate of incidental temporal bone disease was recorded as 11%. CONCLUSION: Data from this study suggests that incidental findings in an asymptomatic individual do not necessitate referral or further intervention. Furthermore, it is the author's recommendation that radiological findings be closely correlated with clinical examination to reduce false diagnosis and inappropriate referral to ENT. LEVEL OF EVIDENCE: 4. Laryngoscope, 2017.