ADC Values of Cytologically Benign and Cytologically Malignant 18 F-FDG PET-Positive Lymph Nodes of Head and Neck Squamous Cell Carcinoma

Petra K. de Koekkoek-Doll, Sander Roberti, Laura Smit, Wouter V. Vogel, Regina Beets-Tan, Michiel W. van den Brekel, Jonas Castelijns

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Nodal staging (N-staging) in head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) is essential for treatment planning and prognosis. 18F-fluordeoxyglucose positron emission tomography (FDG-PET) has high performance for N-staging, although the distinction between cytologically malignant and reactive PET-positive nodes, and consequently, the selection of nodes for ultrasound-guided fine needle aspiration cytology (USgFNAC), is challenging. Diffusion-weighted magnetic resonance imaging (DW-MRI) can help to detect nodal metastases. We aim to investigate the potential of the apparent diffusion coefficient (ADC) as a metric to distinguish between cytologically reactive and malignant PET-positive nodes in order to improve node selection criteria for USgFNAC. PET-CT, real-time image-fused USgFNAC and DW-MRI to calculate ADC were available for 78 patients offered for routine N-staging. For 167 FDG-positive nodes, differences in the ADC between cytologically benign and malignant PET-positive nodes were evaluated, and both were compared to the ADC values of PET-negative reference nodes. Analyses were also performed in subsets of nodes regarding HPV status. A mild negative correlation between SUVmax and ADC was found. No significant differences in ADC values were observed between cytologically malignant and benign PET-positive nodes overall. Within the subset of non-HPV-related nodes, ADCb0-200-1000 was significantly lower in cytologically malignant PET-positive nodes when compared to benign PET-positive nodes. ADCb0-1000 and ADCb0-200-1000 were significantly lower (p = 0.018, 0.016, resp.) in PET-negative reference nodes than in PET-positive nodes. ADC was significantly higher in PET-negative reference nodes than in PET-positive nodes. The non-HPV-related subgroup showed significantly (p = 0.03) lower ADC values in cytologically malignant than in cytologically benign PET-positive nodes, which should help inform the node selection procedure for puncture.
Original languageEnglish
Article number4019
Issue number16
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2022


  • DW-MRI
  • head and neck oncology
  • lymph node
  • real-time image fusion

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