Metastases in supraclavicular lymph nodes in lung cancer: assessment with palpation, US, and CT

Radiology. 2004 Jul;232(1):75-80. doi: 10.1148/radiol.2321030663. Epub 2004 May 27.


Purpose: To compare ultrasonography (US), computed tomography (CT), and palpation for diagnosing supraclavicular lung cancer metastases and to assess the effect of proved metastases on TNM stage and diagnostic work-up.

Materials and methods: One hundred seventeen consecutive patients (91 men and 26 women; mean age, 64.0 years) underwent palpation, US, and CT of supraclavicular regions and chest and upper abdominal CT. Fine-needle aspiration cytologic (FNAC) analysis was performed in patients with nodes with a short-axis diameter of 5 mm or greater; cytologic diagnosis was used as the standard of reference. Sensitivities of palpation, US, and CT were compared with McNemar testing. Relationship between size and palpability of nodes with metastasis was evaluated with logistic regression.

Results: Supraclavicular metastases were diagnosed cytologically in 30 (26%) of 117 patients: eight (31%) of 26 patients with small cell lung cancer (SCLC) and 22 (24%) of 91 patients with non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). Sensitivities of US (1.00; 30 of 30 patients) and CT (0.83; 25 of 30 patients) for detection of metastases were significantly higher (P <.001 and P =.001, respectively) than that of palpation (0.33; 10 of 30 patients). Palpable nodes with metastasis (mean diameter, 25.2 mm) were significantly larger than nonpalpable nodes with metastasis (mean diameter, 13.7 mm) (P =.002). To have a 50% chance of being palpable, nodes with metastasis had to have a diameter of at least 22.3 mm. TNM stage was changed in three of 91 patients with NSCLC, and further invasive diagnostic procedures were prevented in 11 of such patients because it was proved that nonpalpable nodes had metastases.

Conclusion: Supraclavicular lung cancer metastases were cytologically proved in 26% of patients. Nodes with metastasis were only palpable when markedly enlarged. US tripled the sensitivity of palpation for detection of metastases. Results of US and US-guided FNAC analysis can change the work-up in patients with lung cancer.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Biopsy, Fine-Needle
  • Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung / secondary*
  • Carcinoma, Small Cell / secondary*
  • Cytodiagnosis
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lung Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Lymph Nodes / diagnostic imaging
  • Lymph Nodes / pathology
  • Lymphatic Metastasis / diagnosis*
  • Male
  • Mediastinum
  • Middle Aged
  • Neck
  • Neoplasm Staging
  • Palpation*
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed*
  • Ultrasonography, Interventional