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The mediastinal staging accuracy of 18F-Fluorodeoxyglycose positron emission tomography/computed tomography in non-small cell lung cancer with variable time intervals to surgery.

BACKGROUND: PET/CT scanning can determine suitability for curative therapy and inform decision making when considering radical therapy in patients with non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). Metastases to central mediastinal lymph nodes (N2) may alter such management decisions. We report a 2 year retrospective series assessing N2 lymph node staging accuracy with PET/CT compared to pathological analysis at surgery.

METHODS: Patients with NSCLC attending our centre (excluding those who had induction chemotherapy) who had staging PET/CT scans and pathological nodal sampling between June 2006 and June 2008 were analysed. For each lymph node assessed pathologically, the corresponding PET/CT status was determined. 64 patients with 200 N2 lymph nodes were analysed.

RESULTS: Sensitivity of PET/CT scans for indentifying involved N2 lymph nodes was 39%, specificity 96% and overall accuracy 90%. For individual lymph node analysis, logistic regression demonstrated a significant linear association between PET/CT sensitivity and time from scanning to surgery (p=0.031) but not for specificity and accuracy. Those scanned <9 weeks before pathological sampling were significantly more sensitive (64% >9 weeks, 0% ≥ 9 weeks, p=0.013) and more accurate (94% <9 weeks, 81% ≥ 9 weeks, p=0.007). Differences in specificity were not seen (97% <9 weeks, 91% ≥ 9 weeks, p=0.228). No significant difference in specificity was found at any time point.

CONCLUSIONS: We recommend that if a PET/CT scan is older than 9 weeks, and management would be altered by the presence of N2 nodes, re-staging of the mediastinum should be undertaken.

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