Background: Previous studies suggest positron emission tomography (PET) may improve staging accuracy of esophageal cancer compared with conventional methods, especially in detecting occult distant metastases. We evaluated the accuracy of PET in the detection of lymph node metastasis prospectively with pathologic findings.
Methods: Fifty-three patients with squamous cell carcinoma underwent whole-body PET scan and chest computed tomography (CT). The findings of PET and chest CT of 50 patients who underwent curative esophagectomy with radical lymph node dissection were compared with the pathologic findings.
Results: Among 53 primary esophageal tumors, PET detected 51 (96.2%) and CT detected 49 (92.5%) tumors correctly. Nodal metastases were present in 108 of 436 dissected lymph node groups. PET detected 56 metastatic node groups (51.9% sensitivity, 94.2% specificity, 83.7% accuracy), compared with CT, which detected 16 (14.8% sensitivity, 96.7% specificity, 76.6% accuracy; sensitivity: p < 0.005).
Conclusions: PET was more sensitive than CT in the detection of nodal metastases and may improve staging of squamous cell carcinoma of the esophagus.