Comparison between positron emission tomography and computed tomography in the use of the assessment of esophageal carcinoma

Cancer. 2002 Feb 15;94(4):921-8.


Background: The role and potential value of positron emission tomography (PET) scanning in certain tumors has been widely investigated in recent years. The authors retrospectively assessed the performance of 18-F-fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG)-PET in the assessment of esophageal squamous cell carcinoma (SCC).

Methods: The results using PET were compared with those using computed tomography (CT), and these were correlated with the pathologic findings. The authors studied 32 patients with thoracic esophageal SCC who had undergone radical esophagectomy.

Results: Uptake of FDG in the primary tumor was found in 25 of the 32 (78.1%) cases. Comparison of the FDG uptake and the clinicopathologic findings showed that there was a significant association between the FDG uptake and each of the depth of tumor invasion (P < 0.05), occurrence of lymph node metastasis (P < 0.01), and lymphatic invasion (P < 0.01). The survival rate in cases with high FDG uptake (standardized uptake value [SUV], >3) was significantly lower than that in cases with low FDG uptake (SUV, < 3; P < 0.05). In the evaluation of lymph node staging by the detection of lymph node metastasis, FDG-PET showed 77.8% sensitivity, 92.9% specificity, and 84.4% accuracy, and CT scanning showed 61.1% sensitivity, 71.4% specificity, and 65.6% accuracy. Positron emission tomography scanning showed a high degree of accuracy in the neck, upper thoracic, and abdominal regions. However, in the mid- and lower thoracic regions, the sensitivity was very low. The smallest lymph node metastasis that was detected by FDG-PET imaging was 6 mm. The average size of lymph node metastasis that was undetected by FDG-PET scanning was 7.3 mm (range, 1-17 mm).

Conclusions: In conclusion, FDG-PET may be used as a noninvasive diagnostic technique in assessing the aggressiveness of the tumor and the prognosis in patients with esophageal SCC. During the preoperative diagnostic procedures, the sensitivity, specificity, and accuracy of lymph node staging is higher with FDG-PET than with CT imaging. In view of the high specificity of FDG-PET, it also gives useful information to guide the choice of treatment of esophageal carcinoma.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Evaluation Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Carcinoma / diagnostic imaging*
  • Esophageal Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging*
  • Female
  • Fluorodeoxyglucose F18
  • Humans
  • Lymphatic Metastasis
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasm Staging / methods
  • Prognosis
  • Radiopharmaceuticals
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Tomography, Emission-Computed*
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed*


  • Radiopharmaceuticals
  • Fluorodeoxyglucose F18