Sonopalpation: A novel application of ultrasound for detection of submandibular calculi

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery (United States)








calculi; sialendoscopy; sialolithiasis; sonopalpation; submandibular gland; ultrasound


© American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery Foundation 2014. Objective. To study the sensitivity and specificity of physical examination, ultrasound (US) alone, and sonopalpation (concurrent US and transoral palpation) for identification of submandibular gland (SMG) calculi. Study Design. Case series with prospective data collection. Setting. Tertiary-level academic center. Subject and Methods. Patients with suspected SMG swelling were examined by physical examination, US alone, and sonopalpation. The presence or absence and location of sialolithiasis was noted in each group. Sialendoscopy, open sialolithotomy, or sialadenectomy was performed as the gold standard for definitive diagnosis. Sensitivity and specificity for each technique was then determined. Results. Sixty-nine patients were identified with SMG swelling. Physical examination, US, and sonopalpation positively identified sialoliths in 49, 54, and 57 patients, respectively. Fifty-nine patients eventually demonstrated calculi. Sensitivity of physical examination, US alone, and sonopalpation for SMG calculi was 83%, 91%, and 96.6%, respectively. Specificity for physical examination was 60%, 80% for US alone, and 90% for sonopalpation. Of 59 patients with stones, 17 patients underwent purely endoscopic procedures, 36 patients underwent combined or purely transoral approaches, and 6 underwent sialadenectomy. Of the 3 modalities, only sonopalpation was able to both identify and localize pathology and guide treatment management. Conclusion. US is effective in the diagnosis and management of SMG stones during sialendoscopy or sialolithotomy. Sonopalpation has increased sensitivity and specificity over US alone or physical examination not only for the detection of SMG calculi but also for localization of pathology in the ductal system.

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