Purpose: In this study we evaluated the usefulness of MR-imaging in the detection of asymptomatic brain metastases (BM) at the initial diagnosis in patients with small cell lung cancer (SCLC) and studied the follow-up of these patients.
Patients and methods: One-hundred and twenty-five patients with SCLC were investigated with MR-imaging.
Results: In 112 patients with normal neurological findings, MR-imaging of the brain demonstrated BM in 17 patients (15%). Six of these 17 patients were therefore upgraded to extensive disease (ED). Two of these 17 patients died during chemotherapy because of progressive disease and 3 patients became neurologic symptomatic with progressive disease on MR-imaging of the brain. After completion of chemotherapy a repeated MR-imaging of the brain in the remaining 12 patients showed 1 complete remission, 4 partial remission and 7 progressive disease of the BM.
Conclusion: This study showed that at presentation an unexpectedly high percentage of SCLC patients had asymptomatic BM on MR-imaging. We propose that MR-imaging of the brain should be included in the staging of SCLC patients as well for staging, prognosis and therapy.