Mistakes in ultrasound examination of salivary glands

Ewa J. Białek1, Wiesław Jakubowski2

Affiliation and address for correspondence
J Ultrason 2016; 16: 191–203
DOI: 10.15557/JoU.2016.0020

Ultrasonography is the first imaging method applied in the case of diseases of the salivary glands. The article discusses basic mistakes that can be made during an ultrasound examination of these structures. The reasons for these mistakes may be examiner-dependent or may be beyond their control. The latter may include, inter alia, difficult conditions during examination (technical or patient-related), similarity of ultrasound images in different diseases, the lack of clinical and laboratory data as well as the lack of results of other examinations, their insufficient number or incorrectness. Doctor-related mistakes include: the lack of knowledge of normal anatomy, characteristics of ultrasound images in various salivary gland diseases and statistical incidence of diseases, but also attaching excessive importance to such statistical data. The complex anatomical structures of the floor of the oral cavity may be mistaken for benign or malignant tumors. Fragments of correct anatomical structures (bones, arterial wall fibrosis, air bubbles in the mouth) can be wrongly interpreted as deposits in the salivary gland or in its excretory duct. Correct lymph nodes in the parotid glands may be treated as pathologic structures. Lesions not being a simple cyst, e.g. lymphoma, benign or malignant tumors of the salivary glands or metastatic lymph nodes, can be mistaken for one. The image of disseminated focal changes, both anechoic and solid, is not pathognomonic for specific diseases in the salivary glands. However, in part, it occurs typically and requires an extended differential diagnosis. Small focal changes and infiltrative lesions pose a diagnostic problem because their etiology cannot be safely suggested on the basis of an ultrasound examination itself. The safest approach is to refer patients with abnormal focal changes for an ultrasoundguided fine-needle aspiration biopsy.

salivary gland, parotid gland, submandibular gland, ultrasound, mistake