Can Radiologists Accurately Predict Preepiglottic Space Invasion with MR Imaging?

Laurie A. Loevner, David M. Yousem, Kathleen T. Montone, Randal Weber, Ara A. Chalian, Gregory S. Weinstein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Scopus citations


OBJECTIVE. The purpose of this study was to evaluate whether observers of MR imaging can accurately predict invasion of the preepiglottic fat (PEF) in patients with oropharyngeal and supraglottic laryngeal squamous cell carcinoma. MATERIALS AND METHODS. For 41 patients with pathologically proven squamous cell carcinoma of the oropharynx and supraglottic larynx, we retrospectively analyzed their MR images for the presence or absence of PEF neoplastic invasion. Unenhanced T1- weighted, fat-suppressed T2-weighted, and contrast-enhanced fat-suppressed T1-weighted scans were analyzed independently by two neuroradiologists who were unaware of the surgical findings. Proof of diagnosis was determined by pathologic analysis, intraoperative assessment, or both. RESULTS. Sixteen patients had neoplastic infiltration of the PEF. All infiltration was correctly predicted by the two observers of MR imaging, resulting in a sensitivity of 100%. Twenty-five patients had no invasion of the PEF by pathologic or surgical evaluation or both. Of these patients, negative findings were correctly predicted on MR imaging in 21 patients, whereas positive findings were incorrectly predicted on MR imaging in the remaining four patients, resulting in a specificity of 84% and an accuracy of 90%. In two of the four false- positive cases, effacement of the fat in the preepiglottic space by large tumors was mistaken for invasion. In a third patient, spread to the paraglottic space was mistaken for PEF extension. In the fourth false-positive case, glandular tissue along the ventral epiglottis may have been mistaken for tumor. The observers believed that unenhanced sagittal and axial T1- weighted scans were particularly useful because fat saturation artifacts may degrade T2- weighted and contrast-enhanced T1-weighted scans. CONCLUSION. Unenhanced T1-weighted MR images are highly sensitive for neoplastic infiltration of the preepiglottic space in patients with oropharyngeal and supraglottic laryngeal carcinoma who are at risk for such spread. Identification of PEF invasion is important because it affects prognosis and may affect surgical management.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1681-1687
Number of pages7
JournalAmerican Journal of Roentgenology
Issue number6
StatePublished - 1997
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging


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