Multislice computed tomography in the diagnosis of superior canal dehiscence: How much error, and how to minimize it?

Tanya S. Tavassolie, Richard T. Penninger, M. Geraldine Zuñiga, Lloyd B. Minor, John Patrick Carey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


HYPOTHESIS: Multi-slice computed tomography (MSCT) overestimates the size of superior semicircular canal dehiscences (SSCDs) and also can misinterpret thin bone over the superior semicircular canal as dehiscent. A threshold of the radiodensity of the bone over the superior semicircular canal may exist that could optimize prediction of an actual SSCD. BACKGROUND: The gold standard for diagnosis of SSCD is MSCT, but there is a higher prevalence of SSCD based on MSCT compared with histologic studies. Overestimation of SSCD can lead to inappropriate diagnosis and treatment. METHODS: We correlated radiographic and surgical findings in SSCD to determine if MSCT overestimated the size of SSCD and if a threshold radiodensity could be defined, below which actual dehiscence could best be predicted. Participants were 34 humans with SSCD confirmed at surgery. MSCT scans were acquired axially with 0.5-mm collimation and a small field of view (24 cm). Dehiscence sizes measured from radial reconstructions were compared with measurements made during surgery. RESULTS: There were significant differences between radiographic and actual length and width, indicating that MSCT tends to overestimate the size of SSCD. Receiver operating characteristic analysis found a threshold in Hounsfield units that optimized the prediction of dehiscence. CONCLUSION: Computed tomographic imaging alone can be misleading for diagnosis of SSCD. It can overestimate the size of the dehiscence, and it can falsely detect dehiscences. Clinical symptoms and other signs must be clearly indicative before surgery, and MSCT cannot be used exclusively for the diagnosis of SSCD.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)215-222
Number of pages8
JournalOtology and Neurotology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2012


  • Computed Labyrinth Receiver operating characteristic
  • Sensitivity
  • Specificity
  • Superior canal dehiscence
  • Vertigo
  • Vestibular

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Otorhinolaryngology
  • Sensory Systems
  • Clinical Neurology


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