The introduction of computed tomography (CT) in 1972 revolutionized the radiographic evaluation of patients who have experienced trauma. However, panoramic tomography (PT) continued to be superior in sensitivity to CT in the identification of mandible fractures and has been considered the gold standard for the past 3 decades. In 1989, a faster, higher-resolution spiral or helical CT (HCT) became widely available, and its efficacy in multiplanar evaluation and diagnosis of fractures of the upper two thirds of the face has been well established. The sensitivity of this new-generation HCT in comparison to PT in the detection of mandible fractures has not been determined. The purpose of this study was to compare the sensitivity, physician interpretation error, and interphysician agreement of HCT and PT in the identification of mandible fractures.
The number and anatomical location of mandible fractures identified by HCT and PT was not significantly different. However, the number and location of 96% of fractures identified by HCT was agreed on by neuroradiologists compared with only 91% of fractures identified by PT. Furthermore, the interphysician agreement when no fracture was identified was 96% by HCT versus only 81% by PT.
In conclusion, HCT has enhanced imaging quality, equivalent sensitivity in identification of fractures, decreased interpretation error, and greater interphysician agreement in the identification of mandible fractures. HCT has surpassed PT as the current gold standard for the radiographic evaluation and diagnosis of mandible fractures.