Background: Ultrasound of the neck with fine needle aspiration (US-FNA) of suspicious lymph nodes has potential advantages over other radiologic techniques as a screening method for the NO neck in head and neck cancer.
Methods: Twenty-five patients with head and neck cancer who underwent both US of the neck with FNA of any suspicious lymph nodes and neck computed tomography (CT) prior to elective neck dissection were studied. The majority of patients had squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) of the upper aerodigestive tract. Histopathologic results of the neck specimens were compared with each screening technique (palpation, US, US-FNA, CT).
Results: Computed tomography (87.9%) and US-FNA (84.9%) had similar overall accuracy in terms of screening the NO neck in our study and were superior to palpation (69.7%) and US alone (72.7%). Specificity was 100% for both CT and US-FNA, with a sensitivity of 60% for CT and 50% for US-FNA. Ultrasound-FNA and CT showed false-negative examinations on virtually the same cases.
Conclusions: Overall, US-FNA was comparable to CT in screening the NO neck in our study. The choice of which modality to employ for imaging the clinically negative neck depends on a number of factors, including the location and clinical extent of the primary tumor as well as the experience and preference of the head and neck surgeon and radiologist.