A study on the post-radiotherapy changes of temporomandibular joint in nasopharyngeal carcinoma patients

Wing Cheung Vincent Wu, Tin Cheung Ying, Dora L.W. Kwong

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


Published by the British Institute of Radiology. Objective: Radiation-induced trismus, which is resulted from damage of the temporomandibular joint (TMJ), is one of the common late complications in nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC) patients after radical radiotherapy. This study investigated the radiation induced TMJ changes using ultrasonography in post-radiotherapy (post-RT) NPC patients. Methods: 114 NPC patients, who had completed radiotherapy for more than 4 years, were assessed with the maximum incisal distance (MID) and ultrasonography examination of TMJ from which the maximum disc thickness of the joint disc, the condyle irregularity (CI), joint vascularity (JV) and relative muscle echogenicity were assessed. The same assessments were conducted on 100 age-matched normal subjects. The results were compared among the patients with and without trismus, and the control group. The mean doses to the TMJ were estimated using the treatment planning system and their correlation with the magnitude of MID was also investigated by the Pearson correlation test. Results: 39 out of the 114 patients (34.2%) presented with trismus. The average mean TMJ for all patients was 41.4 Gy, in which patients with trismus was significantly higher than patients without trismus (p = 0.017). The mean MID of patient group was significantly lower than control group (p < 0.001). The mean maximum disc thickness of the patient group was significantly smaller than the control group, whereas the mean CI and JV were significantly higher in patient group. For relative muscle echogenicity, a higher percentage of the control group showed hyperechoic pterygoid muscle than the patient group. The mean total dose to the TMJs for the patient group was 41.4 Gy and there was a mild negative correlation between the mean TMJ dose and the MID (r = -350). Conclusion: The TMJ in post-RT NPC patients showed reduction of disc thickness, increase of CI and JV. Patients with trismus demonstrated thinner disc thickness and higher JV than those without trismus. Advances in knowledge: Our study was the first cross-sectional comparative study involving over 100 patients and normal subjects that used ultrasound to assess the radiation-induced morphological changes of TMJ. Post-RT TMJ changes characterized by the reduction of disc thickness, increase of CI and JV were detected in the NPC patients. The parameters used in this study were able to detect the morphological differences between the patient group and control group, and therefore can be effectively used to monitor the TMJ condition of post-RT NPC patients.
Original languageEnglish
Article number20170375
JournalBritish Journal of Radiology
Issue number1080
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging


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