Diagnostic Yield of Staging Brain MRI in Patients with Newly Diagnosed Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer

Radiology. 2020 Nov;297(2):419-427. doi: 10.1148/radiol.2020201194. Epub 2020 Aug 25.


Background Existing guidelines are inconsistent regarding the indications for staging brain MRI in patients with newly diagnosed, early-stage non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). Purpose To evaluate the diagnostic yield of staging brain MRI in the initial evaluation of lung cancer. Materials and Methods This retrospective, observational, single-institution study included patients with newly diagnosed NSCLC who underwent staging chest CT and staging brain MRI from November 2017 to October 2018. Diagnostic yield was defined as the proportion of patients with brain metastases among all patients. Yield was stratified into clinical stage groups per the eighth edition of the American Joint Committee on Cancer staging guidelines, based on staging chest CT and in adenocarcinoma with epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) gene mutation and anaplastic lymphoma kinase (ALK) gene rearrangement. Subgroup analyses were performed on the basis of cell types and molecular markers. The χ2 test was performed to compare the diagnostic yields, and Bonferroni correction was used to account for multiple testing between stage groups. Results A total of 1712 patients (mean age, 64 years ± 10 [standard deviation]; 1035 men) were included. The diagnostic yield of staging brain MRI in newly diagnosed NSCLC was 11.9% (203 of 1712; 95% confidence interval [CI]: 10.4%, 13.5%). In clinical stage IA, IB, and II disease, the diagnostic yields were 0.3% (two of 615; 95% CI: 0.0%, 1.2%), 3.8% (seven of 186; 95% CI: 1.5%, 7.6%), and 4.7% (eight of 171; 95% CI: 2.0%, 9.0%), respectively. The diagnostic yield was higher in patients with adenocarcinoma (13.6%; 176 of 1297; 95% CI: 11.8%, 15.6%) than squamous cell carcinoma (5.9%; 21 of 354; 95% CI: 3.7%, 8.9%) and in patients with EGFR mutation-positive adenocarcinoma (17.5%; 85 of 487; 95% CI: 14.2%, 21.1%) than with EGFR mutation-negative adenocarcinoma (10.6%; 68 of 639; 95% CI: 8.4%, 13.3%) (P < .001 for both). Conclusion The diagnostic yield of staging brain MRI in clinical stage IA non-small cell lung cancer was low, but staging brain MRI had a higher diagnostic yield in clinical stage IB and epidermal growth factor receptor mutation-positive adenocarcinoma. © RSNA, 2020 Online supplemental material is available for this article.

Publication types

  • Observational Study

MeSH terms

  • Adenocarcinoma / diagnostic imaging
  • Adenocarcinoma / pathology
  • Aged
  • Brain Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging*
  • Brain Neoplasms / secondary
  • Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung / diagnostic imaging*
  • Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung / pathology
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / diagnostic imaging
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / pathology
  • Contrast Media
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lung Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging*
  • Lung Neoplasms / pathology
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasm Staging
  • Prognosis
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed


  • Contrast Media