Accuracy of fine-needle aspiration cytology in detecting cervical node metastasis after radiotherapy: Systematic review and meta-analysis

Head Neck. 2021 Mar;43(3):987-996. doi: 10.1002/hed.26536. Epub 2020 Nov 9.


Purpose: To define the accuracy of fine-needle aspiration cytology (FNAC) in diagnosing persistent or recurrent neck metastases in previously irradiated patients.

Methods: The study was performed according to the PRISMA-DTA guidelines.

Results: A total of 382 FNACs were used for calculation of diagnostic accuracy parameters. The overall pooled sensitivity and specificity in detecting malignant nodes were 69.1% (95% CI: 56.3%-80.7%; I2 = 79.5%) and 84.2% (95% CI: 71.8%-93.5%; I2 = 87.0%), respectively. Cumulative diagnostic odds ratio (DOR) was 16.54 (95% CI: 4.89-38.99; I2 = 65.8%), while cumulative positive and negative likelihood ratio (PLR and NLR) were 5.4 (95% CI: 2.3-11.2) and 0.37 (95% CI: 0.22-0.54), respectively.

Conclusions: FNAC alone could not guide the decision to perform a salvage neck dissection in previously irradiated patients, but its results should be assessed in relation to the specific clinical context.

Keywords: head and neck cancer; neck dissection; persistence; recurrence; salvage treatment.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Biopsy, Fine-Needle
  • Carcinoma*
  • Humans
  • Lymph Nodes
  • Lymphatic Metastasis
  • Neck Dissection*
  • Sensitivity and Specificity