Objective: To apply meta-analysis to compare the utility of lymphangiography (LAG), computed tomography (CT), and magnetic resonance (MR) imaging for the diagnosis of lymph node metastasis in patients with cervical cancer.
Data sources: MEDLINE literature search and manual reviews of article bibliographies.
Study selection: Studies selected included at least 20 patients with imaging-histologic correlation, described diagnostic criteria for lymph node metastasis, and presented data to allow calculation of contingency tables.
Data extraction: Independently by 2 investigators, stratified for stage of disease (early vs late) and for lymph node location (pelvic vs para-aortic).
Data synthesis: Seventeen studies met the inclusion criteria for LAG, 17 for CT, and 10 for MR imaging. Summary receiver operator characteristic analysis showed no significant differences in the overall performance of LAG, CT, and MR imaging. There was, however, a trend toward better performance for MR imaging than for LAG or CT, both globally and when stratified for stage of disease or for lymph node location. Bayesian analysis of clinical utility showed only moderate increases in positive posttest probability of lymph node metastasis for all methods. Negative test results had a greater impact and, depending on the clinical setting, decreased the probability of lymph node metastasis from 15% to 44% (pretest) to 3% to 18% (posttest).
Conclusions: The LAG, CT, and MR imaging perform similarly in the detection of lymph node metastasis from cervical cancer. As CT and MR imaging are less invasive than LAG and also assess local tumor extent, they should be considered the preferred adjuncts to clinical evaluation of invasive cervical cancer.