The use of combined PET/CT for localizing recurrent head and neck cancer: the Pittsburgh experience

Ear Nose Throat J. 2005 Feb;84(2):104, 106, 108-10.


We performed a retrospective study of 47 patients to ascertain the ability of combined positron-emission tomography and computed tomography (PET/CT) to localize recurrent head and neck cancer. When clinically warranted, biopsies were performed in an attempt to obtain pathologic confirmation of the PET/CT findings. Of the 47 patients, 33 exhibited PET/CT findings consistent with recurrent cancer. Of the 33 patients, 25 underwent either biopsy or surgical excision of disease in an attempt to obtain a pathologic confirmation. Biopsy analysis confirmed the PET/CT findings in 22 of these patients; in the remaining 3 patients, pathologic findings were inconsistent with the PET/CT diagnosis. Based on the subset of 25 patients who underwent pathologic testing, the sensitivity of combined PET/CT was 95% and the specificity was 60%. We conclude that combined PET/CT imaging is a valuable tool for localizing tumor recurrence in patients with head and neck cancer.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Female
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local / diagnostic imaging*
  • Positron-Emission Tomography / methods*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed / methods*