Objective: To assess the value of computed tomography in the determination of extracapsular neoplastic spread and soft tissue infiltration of cervical lymph nodes.
Materials and methods: Prospectively 165 CT reports of patients with squamous cell carcinoma in the head-neck region were compared with the histologic specimens after neck dissection.
Results: CT reached a sensitivity of 80.9% in the determination of extra-capsular neoplastic spread. The infiltration of cervical muscles and the jugular vein was always determined but-often diagnosed false-positive. Therefore, the overall specificity in determining extracapsular neoplastic spread was low with 72.7%.
Conclusions: The accuracy of computed tomography (76.3%) in the determination of extracapsular neoplastic spread, infiltration of cervical muscles and the jugular vein is only partially satisfying.