Color Doppler sonography of salivary glands

C. Martinoli, L. E. Derchi, L. Solbiati, G. Rizzatto, E. Silvestri, M. Giannoni

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


OBJECTIVE. We used color Doppler sonography to evaluate the vascular anatomy of the salivary glands and to analyze physiologic changes that occur during salivary stimulation in normal subjects and the flow alterations that occur in diseased glands. SUBJECTS AND METHODS. The vascular appearance of the three major salivary glands was examined in healthy volunteers (n = 24); in patients with chronic autoimmune diseases, including Sjogren's syndrome (n = 23) and salivary sarcoidosis (n = 2); and in a variety of benign (n = 49) and malignant (n = 13) nodules. Physiologic changes were assessed in healthy volunteers by means of a stimulation test with lemon and were quantified with color images and spectral analysis. Tumor vascularity was graded on a four- step analog scale of 0 to +++ and classified as either peripheral or hilar, depending on the distribution of vessels. RESULTS. In the control subjects, color Doppler imaging accurately reflected the complex vascular anatomy of the salivary glands and showed dramatic changes occurring in parenchymal vessels during lemon stimulation as a result of the intense hyperemia associated with the secretion of saliva. Sjogren's syndrome and sarcoidosis showed a diffuse hypervascular pattern when morphologic changes of salivary parenchyma were seen on gray-scale sonograms. Benign tumors showed a lower grade of vascularity than did malignant tumors. All but one of the hypovascular nodules graded as 0 (n = 8) and + (n = 23) were benign. Conversely, eight of 11 nodules labeled with the highest grade of tumor vascularity (+++) were malignant. When the pattern of tumor flow signals was peripheral, it could be considered specific enough to aid in diagnosing pleomorphic adenoma. Peak systolic velocities greater than 60 cm/sec were never detected in benign tumors and were seen in only 44% of malignant tumors. CONCLUSION. Color Doppler sonography is a promising technique for analyzing the vascularity of the salivary glands and for characterizing some pathologic conditions. Our experience suggests that color Doppler sonography can provide additional diagnostic information in patients with chronic inflammatory diseases or suspected malignant tumors and can help in differentiating pleomorphic adenomas from other salivary gland tumors.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)933-941
Number of pages9
JournalAmerican Journal of Roentgenology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1994

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Radiological and Ultrasound Technology


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