Assessing stapes piston position using computed tomography: A cadaveric study

Yoav Hahn, Rodney C Diaz, Jonathan Hartman, Matthew Bobinski, Hilary A Brodie

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


HYPOTHESIS: Temporal bone computed tomographic (CT) scanning in the postoperative stapedotomy patient is inaccurate in assessing stapes piston position within the vestibule. BACKGROUND: Poststapedotomy patients that have persistent vertigo may undergo CT scanning to assess the position of the stapes piston within the vestibule to rule out overly deep insertion. Vertigo is a recognized complication of the deep piston, and CT evaluation is often recommended. The accuracy of CT scan in this setting is unestablished. METHODS: Stapedotomy was performed on 12 cadaver ears, and stainless steel McGee pistons were placed. The cadaver heads were then scanned using a fine-cut temporal bone protocol. Temporal bone dissection was performed with microscopic measurement of the piston depth in the vestibule. These values were compared with depth of intravestibular penetration measured on CT scan by 4 independent measurements. RESULTS: The intravestibular penetration as assessed by computed tomography was consistently greater than the value found on cadaveric anatomic dissection. The radiographic bias was greater when piston location within the vestibule was shallower. The axial CT scan measurement was 0.53 mm greater, on average, than the anatomic measurement. On average, the coronal CT measurement was 0.68 mm greater than the anatomic measurement. The degree of overestimation of penetration, however, was highly inconsistent. CONCLUSION: Standard temporal bone CT scan is neither an accurate nor precise examination of stapes piston depth within the vestibule. We found that CT measurement consistently overstated intravestibular piston depth. Computed tomography is not a useful study in the evaluation of piston depth for poststapedectomy vertigo and is of limited value in this setting.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)223-230
Number of pages8
JournalOtology and Neurotology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2009


  • Computed tomographic scan
  • Piston
  • Stapedectomy
  • Stapedectomy complications
  • Stapedectomy vertigo

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Otorhinolaryngology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Sensory Systems
  • Medicine(all)


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