Context: The utility of preablation radioiodine scans for the management of differentiated thyroid cancer remains controversial.
Objective: To determine the contribution of preablation Iodine 131 (131-I) planar with single-photon emission computed tomography/computed tomography (SPECT/CT; diagnostic [Dx] scans) to differentiated thyroid cancer staging.
Design: Prospective sequential series at university clinic.
Methods: Using American Joint Committee on Cancer (AJCC) tumor, node, metastasis (TNM) staging, seventh edition 320 patients post-total thyroidectomy were initially staged based on clinical and pathology data (pTN) and then restaged after imaging (TNM). The impact of Dx scans with SPECT/CT on N and M scores, and TNM stage, was assessed in younger, age <45 years, n = 138 (43%), and older, age ≥ 45 years, n = 182 (57%) patients, with subgroup analysis for T1a and T1b tumors.
Results: In younger patients Dx scans detected distant metastases in 5 of 138 patients (4%), and nodal metastases in 61 of 138 patients (44%), including unsuspected nodal metastases in 24 of 63 (38%) patients initially assigned pathologic (p) N0 or pNx. In older patients distant metastases were detected in 18 of 182 patients (10%), and nodal metastases in 51 of 182 patients (28%), including unsuspected nodal metastases in 26 of 108 (24%) patients initially assigned pN0 or pNx. Dx scans detected distant metastases in 2 of 49 (4%) T1a, and 3 of 67 (4.5%) T1b patients.
Conclusions: Dx scans detected regional metastases in 35% of patients, and distant metastases in 8% of patients. Information acquired with Dx scans changed staging in 4% of younger, and 25% of older patients. Preablation scans with SPECT/CT contribute to staging of thyroid cancer. Identification of regional and distant metastases prior to radioiodine therapy has significant potential to alter patient management.