Objective: To determine the value of positron emission tomography (PET) with contrast-enhanced computed tomography (CT) in assessing the need for neck dissection by retrospectively reviewing the pathology reports of patients with human papillomavirus (HPV)-associated oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma (SCC). Design: Retrospective cohort study. Setting: Tertiary medical center. Patients: Seventy-seven patients with HPV-related SCC. Main Outcome Measures: Seventy-seven consecutive patients with a diagnosis of HPV-related SCC who were treated with radiotherapy as the primary treatment between August 2007 and October 2010 were retrospectively evaluated for radiologic and pathologic rate of persistence of nodal metastasis after completion of definitive radiotherapy. Pretreatment and posttreatment imaging included contrast-enhanced CT and PET. Response to treatment was measured on CT, PET at standardized uptake value (SUV) thresholds of 2 and 2.5, and PET/CT by a neuroradiologist in a blinded fashion. Then, the pathology report of the patients who underwent neck dissections was reviewed for nodal status after resection and correlated with the imaging findings. Results: Of the 77 patients, 67 met the study criteria, with an average follow-up PET/CT scan at 90.5 days after completion of radiotherapy. Ten patients did not undergo follow-up PET/CT imaging. Twenty patients underwent neck dissections after completion of radiation therapy. Of these 20 patients, 4 had persistent tumor and 16 did not have viable tumor. Using the final pathology report to correlate with imaging responses,CThad a negative predictive value (NPV) of 85.7% (95% CI, 48.7%-97.4%), PET with SUV thresholds of 2 had an NPV of 91.7% (95% CI, 64.6%-98.5%), PET with a cutoff SUV of 2.5 had an NPV of 85.7% (95% CI, 60.1%-96.0%), PET/CT with an SUV of 2 had an NPV of 100% (95% CI, 59.8%-100.0%), and PET/CT with an SUV of 2.5 had an NPV of 85.7% (95% CI, 48.7%-97.4%). The 47 patients who did not undergo neck dissection had a median follow-up of 26 months without an isolated neck failure. Analysis of all 67 patients in the cohort revealed the following values:CThad anNPVof 95.7% (95% CI, 85.8%-98.8%), PET with an SUV of 2 had anNPV of 98.2% (95% CI, 90.4%-99.7%), PET with an SUV of 2.5 had anNPVof 95.0% (95% CI, 86.3%-98.3%), PET/CT with an SUV of 2 had an NPV of 100.0% (95% CI, 92.0%-100.0%), and PET/CT with an SUV of 2.5 had an NPV of 95.7% (95% CI, 85.8%-98.8%). Conclusions: Positron emission tomography combined with contrast-enhanced CT has a better NPV than either imaging modality alone in patients with HPV-associated oropharyngeal SCC. Furthermore, PET/CT with an SUV threshold of 2 used in patients with HPV-related SCC offers an imaging modality with a high NPV that may obviate the need for unnecessary neck dissections.
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