What is osteoradionecrosis of the jaw?

arkj prgram head neck rehab wildflower therapy Oct 07, 2022

Osteoradionecrosis known as ORN of the jaw is a serious medical condition that can result in jaw fracture following radiotherapy. ORN may present when certain combined patient factors exist with treatment of a head and neck cancer. This can result in death of the jaw bone. 

The symptoms of ORN may go unnoticed due to numbness or lack of sensation a patient experiences following their surgeries for treatment of a head and neck tumor. The symptoms can range from mild to severe. Mild symptoms include tenderness or pain for an extended time without relief or an ulceration along the gingiva of the mandible. Within the gingival areas of swelling and redness present.

Symptoms that are more severe in progression include drainage from the gingival with a foul odor, bone that may be exposed and trismus. Osteoradionecrosis is typically evaluated by a ear, nose and throat physician, oral maxillofacial surgeon or dental team. Diagnosis involves careful consideration of four factors.

How is ORN diagnosed?

  1. The patient’s response to hyperbaric treatments
  2. The patient’s physical exam findings.
  3. A panorex image may be completed to evaluate the bone.
  4. Scans including a CT scan or imaging may also be completed.

If left untreated osteoradionecrosis can result in a serious side effect post treatment of head and neck cancer.