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Ann Thorac Surg. 2012 May;93(5):1621-4. doi: 10.1016/j.athoracsur.2012.01.006. Epub 2012 Mar 17.

Fusion positron emission/computed tomography underestimates the presence of hilar nodal metastases in patients with resected non-small cell lung cancer.

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Division of Thoracic Surgery, Department of Surgery, The Ohio State University Medical Center, Columbus, Ohio 43210, USA.



The 5-year survival for patients with resected stage II (N1) non-small cell lung cancer ranges from 40% to 55%. No data exist addressing the benefit of neoadjuvant therapy for patients with stage II disease. This is largely in part due to the lack of a reliable, minimally invasive method to assess hilar nodes. This study is aimed at determining the ability of fusion positron emission/computed tomography (PET/CT) to identify hilar metastases in patients with resected non-small cell lung cancer.


A retrospective review of surgically resected patients with fusion PET/CT within 30 days of resection was performed. The sensitivity, specificity, positive predictive value, and negative predictive value for PET/CT in detecting hilar nodal metastases was calculated for a range of maximum standardized uptake values (SUVmax). Hilar nodes from patients with falsely positive PET/CT scans were analyzed for the presence of histoplasmosis. Additionally, the impact of hilar node size greater than 1 centimeter on the calculated values was assessed.


There were 119 patients evaluated. The number of lymph nodes resected ranged from 1 to 12 (X=2.98). There was decreased sensitivity and increased specificity with higher SUVmax cutoff values. At the standard SUVmax value of 2.5, the sensitivity and specificity were only 48.5% and 80.2%. The addition of size of hilar node by CT led to a modest improvement in sensitivity at all SUVmax cutoff values.


Fusion PET/CT lacks sensitivity and specificity in identifying hilar nodal metastasis in patients with resected non-small cell lung cancer. Further prospective studies assessing the utility of PET/CT versus alternative sampling techniques are warranted.

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