Interpreting findings seen at CT of the neck is challenging owing to the complex and nuanced anatomy of the neck, which contains multiple organ systems in a relatively small area. In the emergency department setting, CT is performed to investigate acute infectious or inflammatory symptoms and chronic processes. With few exceptions, neck CT should be performed with intravenous contrast material, which accentuates abnormally enhancing phlegmonous and neoplastic tissues and can be used to delineate any abscesses or necrotic areas. As part of the evaluation, the vascular structures and aerodigestive tract must be scrutinized, particularly for pa-tency. Furthermore, although the patient may present because of symptoms that suggest non–life-threatening conditions involving structures such as the teeth or salivary glands, there may be serious implications for other areas, such as the orbits, brain, and spinal cord, that also may be revealed at the examination. With a focus on the emergency setting, the authors propose using an approach to interpreting neck CT findings whereby 12 areas are systematically evaluated and reported on: the cutaneous and subcutaneous soft tissues, aerodigestive tract and adjacent soft tissues, teeth and periodontal tissues, thyroid gland, salivary glands, lymph nodes, vascular structures, bony airspaces, cervical spine, orbits and imaged brain, lung apices, and superior mediastinum. The use of a systematic approach to interpreting neck CT findings is essential for identifying all salient findings, recognizing and synthesizing the implications of these findings to formulate the correct diagnosis, and reporting the findings and impressions in a complete, clear, and logical manner.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging