JOURNAL ARTICLE
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Impact of FDG-PET/CT imaging on nodal staging for head-and-neck squamous cell carcinoma.

PURPOSE: To evaluate the impact of 18F-fluorodeoxyglucose positron emission tomography/computed tomography (FDG-PET/CT) imaging on nodal staging for head-and-neck squamous cell carcinoma (SCC).

METHODS AND MATERIALS: The study population consisted of 23 patients with head-and-neck SCC who were evaluated with FDG-PET/CT and went on to neck dissection. Two observers consensually determined the lesion size and maximum standardized uptake value (SUVmax) and compared the results with pathologic findings on nodal-level involvement. Two different observers (A and B) independently performed three protocols for clinical nodal staging. Methods 1, 2, and 3 were based on conventional modalities, additional visual information from FDG-PET/CT images, and FDG-PET/CT imaging alone with SUV data, respectively.

RESULTS: All primary tumors were visualized with FDG-PET/CT. Pathologically, 19 positive and 93 negative nodal levels were identified. The SUVmax overlapped in negative and positive nodes <15 mm in diameter. According to receiver operating characteristics analysis, the size-based SUVmax cutoff values were 1.9, 2.5, and 3.0 for lymph nodes <10 mm, 10-15 mm, and >15 mm, respectively. These cutoff values yielded 79% sensitivity and 99% specificity for nodal-level staging. For Observer A, the sensitivity and specificity in Methods 1, 2, and 3 were 68% and 94%, 68% and 99%, and 84% and 99%, respectively, and Method 3 yielded significantly higher accuracy than Method 1 (p = 0.0269). For Observer B, Method 3 yielded the highest sensitivity (84%) and specificity (99%); however, the difference among the three protocols was not statistically significant.

CONCLUSION: Imaging with FDG-PET/CT with size-based SUVmax cutoff values is an important modality for radiation therapy planning.

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