• computed tomography;
  • PET-CT;
  • oropharyngeal carcinoma;
  • chemoradiation



The aim of our study was to assess the utility of positron emission tomography (PET) and 2 fluoro-2-deoxy-D-glucose coupled with neck CT compared with contrast-enhanced CT in predicting persistent cancer either at the primary site or cervical lymphatics in patients with oropharyngeal cancer treated with concurrent chemoradiation


Thirty consecutive patients underwent clinical examination, PET-CT, and contrast-enhanced CT to assess response after the completion of the treatment. The outcome variable was positive tissue diagnosis or negative disease at 6 months. Sensitivity, specificity, positive predictive value (PPV), negative predictive value (NPV), and accuracy were calculated for the primary site as well as cervical disease.


Contrast-enhanced CT alone showed the best accuracy in detecting disease at the primary site after treatment (85.7%). Accuracy in evaluating residual tumor in the cervical lymphatics for contrast-enhanced CT and PET-CT was 59.3% and 74.1%, respectively. For evaluating the neck, PET-CT and contrast-enhanced CT demonstrated 100% NPV, but the PPV was 36.3% and 26.6%, respectively.


In this preliminary study, PET-CT seems to be superior to contrast-enhanced CT in predicting persistent disease in the neck after chemoradiation for oropharyngeal or unknown primary cancer, but not at the primary site. However, the possibility of a false-positive result in the neck remains high, and thus overtreatment may result. Even more concerning are the false-negative results. Larger, prospective studies will be important in defining the role of PET-CT in obviating the need for salvage neck dissections after chemoradiation. © 2006 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Head Neck 28:487–495, 2006