Mandibular osteomyelitis often is associated with involvement of the masticator space. Assessment of mandibular osteomyelitis should therefore involve assessment of soft tissue involvement of the lesion. The purpose of this study was to clarify the relationship between computed tomography patterns and the presence of inflammation in soft tissues. Thirty-three cases diagnosed with osteomyelitis of the mandible were analyzed radiologically with conventional radiographs and with computed tomography scans. Computed tomography patterns of osteomyelitis were classified into four types, lytic, mixed, sclerotic, and sequestrum patterns. Location, extent of the lesion, and change of the cortical plate were evaluated and compared with conventional radiographic findings. Mixed pattern cases displayed diffuse bone abnormalities, which sometimes were accompanied by cortical plate disruption and periosteal reaction. In addition, most mixed pattern cases showed soft tissue involvement, especially of the masseter muscle. Inflammation of the masseter muscle was found to be related to periosteal reaction and disruption of the buccal cortical plate. The data demonstrate a close interaction between cortical plate disruption and muscle inflammation. The extent of inflammation including soft tissue involvement was better appreciated with computed tomography in osteomyelitis, especially in mixed pattern cases.
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