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Ann Surg Oncol. 2012 Jul;19(7):2212-23. doi: 10.1245/s10434-011-2210-5. Epub 2012 Jan 20.

Diagnostic accuracy of MRI for assessment of T category, lymph node metastases, and circumferential resection margin involvement in patients with rectal cancer: a systematic review and meta-analysis.

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Department of Surgery, Mount Sinai Hospital, and University of Toronto, Toronto, ON, Canada.



Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is increasingly being used for rectal cancer staging. The purpose of this study was to determine the accuracy of phased array MRI for T category (T1-2 vs. T3-4), lymph node metastases, and circumferential resection margin (CRM) involvement in primary rectal cancer.


Medline, Embase, and Cochrane databases were searched using combinations of keywords relating to rectal cancer and MRI. Reference lists of included articles were also searched by hand. Inclusion criteria were: (1) original article published January 2000-March 2011, (2) use of phased array coil MRI, (3) histopathology used as reference standard, and (4) raw data available to create 2×2 contingency tables. Patients who underwent preoperative long-course radiotherapy or chemoradiotherapy were excluded. Two reviewers independently extracted data. Sensitivity, specificity, and diagnostic odds ratio were estimated for each outcome using hierarchical summary receiver-operating characteristics and bivariate random effects modeling.


Twenty-one studies were included in the analysis. There was notable heterogeneity among studies. MRI specificity was significantly higher for CRM involvement [94%, 95% confidence interval (CI) 88-97] than for T category (75%, 95% CI 68-80) and lymph nodes (71%, 95% CI 59-81). There was no significant difference in sensitivity between the three elements as a result of wide overlapping CIs. Diagnostic odds ratio was significantly higher for CRM (56.1, 95% CI 15.3-205.8) than for lymph nodes (8.3, 95% CI 4.6-14.7) but did not differ significantly from T category (20.4, 95% CI 11.1-37.3).


MRI has good accuracy for both CRM and T category and should be considered for preoperative rectal cancer staging. In contrast, lymph node assessment is poor on MRI.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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