Imaging of cervical lymph nodes in head and neck cancer: the basics

Radiol Clin North Am. 2006 Jan;44(1):101-10, viii. doi: 10.1016/j.rcl.2005.08.006.


Imaging can identify pathologic cervical adenopathy in a significant number of patients with head and neck cancer who have no palpable adenopathy on physical examination. This article reviews nodal classification, drainage patterns of different head and neck cancers, various cross-sectional imaging features of metastatic lymph nodes from head and neck cancer, nodal staging, and certain features like extracapsular spread and carotid and vertebral invasion that the clinician should know because they have therapeutic and prognostic implications. New imaging techniques and the role of fluorodeoxyglucose positron emission tomography imaging in recurrent disease are discussed.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / diagnosis*
  • Contrast Media
  • Female
  • Fluorodeoxyglucose F18
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Humans
  • Lymph Nodes* / diagnostic imaging
  • Lymph Nodes* / pathology
  • Lymphatic Metastasis / diagnosis*
  • Lymphatic Metastasis / diagnostic imaging
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging* / methods
  • Male
  • Neck
  • Neoplasm Invasiveness
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local / diagnosis
  • Neoplasm Staging
  • Palpation
  • Positron-Emission Tomography* / methods
  • Prognosis
  • Radiopharmaceuticals
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed* / methods
  • Ultrasonography


  • Contrast Media
  • Radiopharmaceuticals
  • Fluorodeoxyglucose F18