JOURNAL ARTICLE
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Tongue abscesses: MR imaging findings.

BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE: A lingual abscess is difficult to diagnose in the absence of physical signs. MR imaging may provide an excellent and invaluable adjunct to clinical examination, but the literature is incomplete in defining the various MR imaging findings of abscess. The objective of this study was to determine the MR imaging features of tongue abscesses.

METHODS: Seven surgically proved tongue abscesses were evaluated with MR imaging. Four patients underwent MR imaging because of suspected tumor, and 3 patients, to show the extent and precise anatomic location of the lesion. Lesions were assessed with regard to the location, size, signal-intensity characteristics, and pattern of contrast enhancement.

RESULTS: Five lesions were located in the anterior tongue and 2, in the posterior tongue. The central parts of 4 anterior tongue abscesses were hypointense, surrounded by a hyperintense wall on T1-weighted precontrast images. On postcontrast images, marked wall enhancement was detected. On T2-weighted images, a markedly hyperintense central part surrounded by a hypointense rim was seen. In 2 of these patients, there was a hypointense halo surrounding the wall (target sign). In 3 patients, a perilesional hyperintense area that enhanced diffusely after contrast administration was detected on T2-weighted images. The smallest lesion located in the anterior tongue was hypointense on T1-weighted images and enhanced diffusely on postcontrast images. On T2-weighted images, a markedly hyperintense central part surrounded by a mildly hyperintense peripheral part was depicted. Posterior tongue lesions appeared as polypoid ill-defined masses and were hypointense on T1-weighted images and heterogeneously hyperintense on T2-weighted images. On postcontrast images, the lesion in 1 patient showed diffuse and heterogeneous contrast enhancement, whereas the lesion in another patient enhanced peripherally. The lesions were totally excised in 4 patients and drained with surgical incisions in 3 patients. No recurrence was detected on follow-up.

CONCLUSION: An abscess typically presents as a cystic lesion surrounded by an enhancing capsule formation, but lesions may also present as solid masses that enhance diffusely or peripherally.

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