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Eur Arch Otorhinolaryngol. 2004 Oct;261(9):479-83. Epub 2003 Dec 17.

Positron emission tomography using [18F]fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG-PET) in the clinically negative neck: is it likely to be superior?

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Department of Otolaryngology and Head and Neck Surgery, VU University Medical Center, De Boelelaan 1117, 1081 HV, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.


The capability of modern imaging techniques such as CT, MRI, US and US-guided fine-needle aspiration cytology (USgFNAC) to detect small tumour deposits is limited. Therefore, the detection of occult metastases in the clinically negative neck remains a diagnostic problem. One of the novel options to refine staging of head and neck cancer is [(18)F]fluorodeoxyglucose positron emission tomography (FDG-PET). To evaluate the diagnostic value of FDG-PET in the detection of occult malignant lymph nodes, we compared the results of FDG-PET with other diagnostic techniques and the histopathological outcome of 15 neck dissection specimens from 15 head and neck cancer patients with a clinically negative neck. Three sides contained metastases of squamous cell carcinoma. FDG-PET enabled detection of metastases in two sides, which were also detected by MRI or USgFNAC. FDG-PET and CT missed metastases in one patient, which were detected by both MRI and USgFNAC. In studies with a detailed examination of lymph nodes of a neck dissection, a low sensitivity of FDG-PET for the detection of occult lymph node metastases is found. It is unlikely that FDG-PET is superior in the detection of occult lymph node metastases in head and neck cancer patients with a palpably negative neck. The histopathological method used seems to be the most important factor for the differences in sensitivity in reported FDG-PET studies. New approaches such as the use of monoclonal antibodies labelled with a positron emitter may improve the results of PET in these patients.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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