Workup of Suspected Chest Metastases on 18F-FDG-PET/CT in Head and Neck Cancer: Worth the Wait?

Christopher J. Leto, Daniel Sharbel, Chien Wei Wang, Tyler M. Bone, Robert M. Liebman, James Kenneth Byrd, Michael W Groves

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


The objective of our study is to assess the impact of equivocal or positive positron emission tomography combined with low-dose noncontrast computed tomography (PET/CT) findings in the chest on treatment for head and neck cancer (HNC). We reviewed charts of patients presented at Augusta University’s Head and Neck Tumor Board (AUTB) between 2013 and 2016 with the following exclusion criteria: <18 years, Veterans Affairs patients, those with incomplete data, and those without a history of head and neck squamous cell carcinoma. The lung/thorax sections of the radiologists’ PET/CT reports were graded as “Positive, Equivocal, or Negative” for chest metastases. Patients who underwent workup for suspected chest metastases were assessed for treatment delays, changes in treatment plans, and complications. In addition, we evaluated the time between AUTB presentation and peri-treatment PET/CT to primary treatment initiation were calculated between groups. There was a total of 363 patients with PET/CT prior to treatment, the read was “Negative” in 71.3% (n = 259), “Equivocal” in 20.9% (n = 76), and “Positive” in 5.8% (n = 21). Of 272 patients with complete treatment data, 22 underwent workup for suspected chest metastases. Mean time from PET/CT to treatment initiation was 27.5 days without workup and 64.9 days with workup (P <.0001), and from AUTB presentation was 29.1 days without workup and 62.5 days with workup (P <.0001). Five (19.2%) patients experienced a complication from workup. Twenty (76.9%) patients had no changes in their treatment plan after workup. In conclusion, our results for potential chest metastases on PET/CT in patients with HNC are often not clear-cut. Workup of suspected chest metastasis based on PET/CT findings significantly delays primary treatment initiation and may cause serious complications.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)158-164
Number of pages7
JournalEar, Nose and Throat Journal
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2019


  • PET/CT
  • chest metastasis
  • head and neck cancer
  • preoperative imaging
  • treatment delay

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Otorhinolaryngology


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