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Is it possible to predict neurosensory alterations in impacted lower third molar removal based on preoperative imaging procedures? A prospective cohort study.

BACKGROUND: Surgical extraction of the lower third molar (LTM) may trigger neurosensory injury of the inferior alveolar nerve, making extraction a real challenge. This study set out to assess whether is it possible to predict neurosensory alterations from preoperative imaging.

MATERIAL AND METHODS: A total of 99 patients underwent 124 impacted lower third molar (ILTM) surgeries. Prior to surgery, panoramic and CBCT images were evaluated in an attempt to predict a neurosensory disturbance. Preoperative data (ILTM position, panoramic radiograph signs, inferior alveolar nerve (IAN) location and its contact with the ILTM roots) and intra/postoperative findings (extraction difficulty and sensitivity alterations) were recorded. Descriptive and bivariate data analysis was performed. Statistical comparison applied the chi-square test, Fisher test, and one-way ANOVA test. Statistical significance was established with a confidence interval (CI) of 95%.

RESULTS: In 4.03% of cases, patients experienced neurosensory alterations. Of 124 ILTM positions in panoramic radiographs, 76 cases were considered to exhibit a potential neurosensory risk as they presented two or more types of superimposed relationships between ILTM and mandibular canal. Of these, alterations were reported in only three cases (3.95%). Of the 48 remaining ILTM images presenting only one sign, neurosensory alterations were observed in two cases (4.17%). No permanent alterations were recorded in any of the five cases observed.

CONCLUSIONS: Within the limitations of the present study, prediction of neurosensory alterations prior to ILTM extraction by means of preoperative imaging did not show a significant statistical correlation with post-surgical incidence. Nevertheless, interruption of the canal´s white line (ICWL) or a diversion of the canal (DC) may predict an increased risk of IAN injury.

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