Deep Learning for the Preoperative Diagnosis of Metastatic Cervical Lymph Nodes on Contrast-Enhanced Computed ToMography in Patients with Oral Squamous Cell Carcinoma

Cancers (Basel). 2021 Feb 3;13(4):600. doi: 10.3390/cancers13040600.


We investigated the value of deep learning (DL) in differentiating between benign and metastatic cervical lymph nodes (LNs) using pretreatment contrast-enhanced computed tomography (CT). This retrospective study analyzed 86 metastatic and 234 benign (non-metastatic) cervical LNs at levels I-V in 39 patients with oral squamous cell carcinoma (OSCC) who underwent preoperative CT and neck dissection. LNs were randomly divided into training (70%), validation (10%), and test (20%) sets. For the validation and test sets, cervical LNs at levels I-II were evaluated. Convolutional neural network analysis was performed using Xception architecture. Two radiologists evaluated the possibility of metastasis to cervical LNs using a 4-point scale. The area under the curve of the DL model and the radiologists' assessments were calculated and compared at levels I-II, I, and II. In the test set, the area under the curves at levels I-II (0.898) and II (0.967) were significantly higher than those of each reader (both, p < 0.05). DL analysis of pretreatment contrast-enhanced CT can help classify cervical LNs in patients with OSCC with better diagnostic performance than radiologists' assessments alone. DL may be a valuable diagnostic tool for differentiating between benign and metastatic cervical LNs.

Keywords: cervical lymph node; convolutional neural network; deep learning; level; squamous cell carcinoma.