Intraobserver and interobserver variability in GTV delineation on FDG-PET-CT images of head and neck cancers

Stephen L Breen, Julia Publicover, Shiroma De Silva, Greg Pond, Kristy Brock, Brian O'Sullivan, Bernard Cummings, Laura Dawson, Anne Keller, John Kim, Jolie Ringash, Eugene Yu, Aaron Hendler, John Waldron
International Journal of Radiation Oncology, Biology, Physics 2007 July 1, 68 (3): 763-70

PURPOSE: To determine if the addition of fluorodeoxyglucose positron emission tomography (FDG-PET) data changes primary site gross tumor volumes (GTVs) in head and neck cancers.

METHODS AND MATERIALS: Computed tomography (CT), contrast-enhanced CT, and FDG-PET-CT scans were obtained in 10 patients with head and neck cancers. Eight experienced observers (6 head and neck oncologists and 2 neuro-radiologists) with access to clinical and radiologic reports outlined primary site GTVs on each modality. Three cases were recontoured twice to assess intraobserver variability. The magnitudes of the GTVs were compared. Intra- and interobserver variability was assessed by a two-way repeated measures analysis of variance. Inter- and intraobserver reliability were calculated.

RESULTS: There were no significant differences in the GTVs across the image modalities when compared as ensemble averages; the Wilcoxon matched-pairs signed-rank test showed that CT volumes were larger than PET-CT. Observers demonstrated the greatest consistency and were most interchangeable on contrast-enhanced CT; they performed less reliably on PET-CT.

CONCLUSIONS: The addition of PET-CT to primary site GTV delineation of head and neck cancers does not change the volume of the GTV defined by this group of expert observers in this patient sample. An FDG-PET may demonstrate differences in neck node delineation and in other disease sites.

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