Impact of combined (18)F-FDG PET/CT in head and neck tumours

Br J Cancer. 2005 Mar 28;92(6):1046-50. doi: 10.1038/sj.bjc.6602464.


To compare the interobserver agreement and degree of confidence in anatomical localisation of lesions using 2-[fluorine-18]fluoro-2-deoxy-D-glucose ((18)F-FDG) positron emission tomography (PET)/computed tomography (CT) and (18)F-FDG PET alone in patients with head and neck tumours. A prospective study of 24 patients (16 male, eight female, median age 59 years) with head and neck tumours was undertaken. (18)F-FDG PET/CT was performed for staging purposes. 2D images were acquired over the head and neck area using a GE Discovery LS PET/CT scanner. (18)F-FDG PET images were interpreted by three independent observers. The observers were asked to localise abnormal (18)F-FDG activity to an anatomical territory and score the degree of confidence in localisation on a scale from 1 to 3 (1=exact region unknown; 2=probable; 3=definite). For all (18)F-FDG-avid lesions, standardised uptake values (SUVs) were also calculated. After 3 weeks, the same exercise was carried out using (18)F-FDG PET/CT images, where CT and fused volume data were made available to observers. The degree of interobserver agreement was measured in both instances. A total of six primary lesions with abnormal (18)F-FDG uptake (SUV range 7.2-22) were identified on (18)F-FDG PET alone and on (18)F-FDG PET/CT. In all, 15 nonprimary tumour sites were identified with (18)F-FDG PET only (SUV range 4.5-11.7), while 17 were identified on (18)F-FDG PET/CT. Using (18)F-FDG PET only, correct localisation was documented in three of six primary lesions, while (18)F-FDG PET/CT correctly identified all primary sites. In nonprimary tumour sites, (18)F-FDG PET/CT improved the degree of confidence in anatomical localisation by 51%. Interobserver agreement in assigning primary and nonprimary lesions to anatomical territories was moderate using (18)F-FDG PET alone (kappa coefficients of 0.45 and 0.54, respectively), but almost perfect with (18)F-FDG PET/CT (kappa coefficients of 0.90 and 0.93, respectively). We conclude that (18)F-FDG PET/CT significantly increases interobserver agreement and confidence in disease localisation of (18)F-FDG-avid lesions in patients with head and neck cancers.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Fluorodeoxyglucose F18*
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Observer Variation
  • Pilot Projects
  • Positron-Emission Tomography*
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed


  • Fluorodeoxyglucose F18