Background: The aim of this study was to compare three common methods (transillumination, plain radiographs, and computerized tomography [CT] image guidance) for estimating the position and extent of pneumatization of the frontal sinus in osteoplastic flap surgery. Methods: Axial CT scans and 6-ft Caldwell radiographs were performed on 10 cadaver heads. For each head, soft tissue overlying the frontal bone was raised and the anticipated position and extent of the frontal sinus at four points was marked using three common methods. The silhouette of the frontal sinus from the Caldwell plain radiograph was excised and placed in position. Four points at the periphery also were made using information obtained from a passive optically guided image-guided surgery device, and transillumination via a frontal trephination also was used to estimate sinus extent. The true sinus size was measured at each point and compared with experimental values. Results: The use of CT image guidance generated the least difference between measured and actual values (mean = 1.91 mm; SEM = 0.29); this method was found statistically superior to Caldwell (p = 0.040) and transillumination (p = 0.007). Image guidance did not overestimate the size of the sinus (0/36) and was quicker than the Caldwell approach (8.5 versus 11.5 minutes). There was no learning curve appreciated with image guidance. Conclusion: Accurate and precise estimation of the position and extent of the frontal sinus is crucial when performing osteoplastic flap surgery. Use of CT image guidance was statistically superior to Caldwell and transillumination methods and proved to be safe, reproducible, economic, and easy to learn.
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