Magnetic resonance imaging of the inner ear in the diagnostics of Ménière’s disease
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Ménière’s disease is characterized by sudden episodes of vertigo accompanied by tinnitus and/or feeling of fullness in the ear as well as fluctuating sensorineural hearing loss. Despite numerous studies, the etiology of this disease remains unknown. However, the enlargement of the inner ear’s endolymphatic spaces, referred to as endolymphatic hydrops, is considered the underlying condition. Thanks to recent advances in magnetic resonance (MR) technology, it is now possible to obtain in vivo imaging of endolymphatic hydrops in patients presenting with Ménière’s disease symptoms. Visualization of the inner ear fluid compartments is achieved after gadolinium contrast is administered into the tympanic cavity or via the intravenous route. Evaluation of endolymphatic hydrops is possible as the contrast agent selectively penetrates the perilymph, and endolymph is visualized as contrast defects. The currently used radiological hydrops grading systems include qualitative, semi-quantitative, and volumetric scales. The methods are subject to ongoing modifications to increase their sensitivity and specificity. Numerous studies describe correlations between clinical symptoms and audiological and otoneurological examination results with the endolymphatic hydrops grade. MRI is also applicable in patients’ diagnostics with an incomplete or atypical course of the Ménière’s disease. In the course of the treatment, follow-up MRI scans enable assessing individual treatment modalities’ efficacy in terms of the severity of lesions and the further course of the disease within the inner ear.
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