Background: The purpose of the current study was to assess whether [18F]fluorodeoxyglucose positron emission tomography (FDG-PET) provides incremental value (e.g., additional information on lymph node involvement or the presence of distant metastases) compared with computed tomography (CT) in patients with esophageal carcinoma.
Methods: The authors examined 149 consecutive patients with thoracic esophageal carcinoma. Eighty-one patients underwent radical esophagectomy without pretreatment, 17 received chemoradiotherapy followed by surgery, 3 underwent endoscopic mucosal resection, and the remaining 48 patients received definitive radiotherapy and chemotherapy. The diagnostic accuracy of FDG-PET and CT was evaluated at the time of diagnosis.
Results: The primary tumor was visualized using FDG-PET in 119 (80%) of 149 patients. Regarding lymph node metastases, FDG-PET had 32% sensitivity, 99% specificity, and 93% accuracy for individual lymph node group evaluation and 55% sensitivity, 90% specificity, and 72% accuracy for lymph node staging evaluation. PET exhibited incremental value over CT with regard to lymph node status in 14 of 98 patients who received surgery: 6 patients with negative CT findings were eventually shown to have lymph node metastases (i.e., they had positive PET findings and a positive reference standard [RS]); 6 patients with positive CT findings were shown not to have lymph node metastases (i.e., they had negative PET findings and a negative RS); and 2 patients were shown to have cervical lymph node metastases in addition to mediastinal or abdominal lymph node metastases. Among the remaining patients, PET showed incremental value over CT with regard to distant organ metastases in six patients. The overall incremental value of PET compared with CT with regard to staging accuracy was 14% (20 of 149 patients).
Conclusions: FDG-PET provided incremental value over CT in the initial staging of esophageal carcinoma. At present, combined PET-CT may be the most effective method available for the preoperative staging of esophageal tumors.