Differentiation of benign and malignant cervical lymph nodes with color Doppler sonography

AJR Am J Roentgenol. 1994 Apr;162(4):965-8. doi: 10.2214/ajr.162.4.8141027.


Objective: This study proposed to evaluate the efficacy of color Doppler sonography in detecting possible differences in blood flow patterns between malignant and benign cervical lymph nodes.

Subjects and methods: During a period of 12 months, the palpable cervical lymph nodes of 48 untreated patients were prospectively evaluated with color Doppler sonography and Doppler flow wave analysis. Histopathologic diagnoses were obtained by sonographically guided fine-needle aspiration biopsy and/or excisional biopsy.

Results: We found 16 benign lymph nodes (four were tuberculous lymphadenitis, four were reactive hyperplasia, and eight were unspecified) and 32 malignant lymph nodes (13 were squamous cell carcinomas, nine were adenocarcinomas, four were small-cell carcinomas, three were lymphomas, and three were miscellaneous). Color Doppler flow patterns were seen in six (38%) of the 16 benign lymph nodes and in 29 (91%) of the 32 malignant lymph nodes. Twenty-six (81%) of the 32 malignant lymph nodes had abnormal flow patterns, with resistance indexes less than 0.6. However, three (19%) of the 16 benign lymph nodes also had abnormal flow patterns, and only seven (54%) of 13 squamous cell carcinomas had abnormal flow patterns.

Conclusion: Color Doppler sonography has limited clinical value in differentiating malignant from benign cervical lymph nodes and in obviating biopsy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adenocarcinoma / diagnostic imaging
  • Adenocarcinoma / secondary*
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / diagnostic imaging*
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / secondary*
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lymph Nodes / diagnostic imaging*
  • Lymphatic Diseases / diagnostic imaging*
  • Lymphatic Metastasis
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neck / diagnostic imaging
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Ultrasonics
  • Ultrasonography