Magnetic resonance imaging accuracy in assessing tumour down-staging following chemoradiation in rectal cancer


A. Suppiah, Academic Surgical Unit, Castle Hill Hospital, Castle Road, Cottingham, East Yorkshire HU16 5JQ, UK.


Objective  Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is increasingly accepted as the radiological modality of choice staging rectal cancer but is subject to error. Neoadjuvant therapy is increasingly used in rectal cancer and MRI is used to stage response and occasionally plan surgery. We aim to assess the staging accuracy of MRI following chemoradiotherapy in rectal cancer.

Method  Retrospective analysis of 86 patients with MRI stage pre- and postlong-course chemoradiotherapy and comparison with pathological assessment.

Results  Fourty-nine patients (34 men, 15 women) with median age 68 years (60–74) were analysed. The median time from completion of CRT to MRI was 32 days (16–37). Chemoradiotherapy led to significant down-staging (< 0.001). MRI-staging accuracy was 43% (21/49) with over- and under-staging in 43% (21/49) and 14% (7/49) respectively. T-stage accuracy was 45% (22/49) with over-staging in 33% (16/49) and under-staging in 22% (11/49). MRI stage correlated poorly with pathological assessment for International Union Against Cancer (κ = 0.255) and T stages (κ = 0.112). MRI nodal assessment was 71% (35/49) accurate, with 82% (9/11) sensitivity, 68% (26/38) specificity and positive predictive value (PPV) of 43% (9/21) and negative predictive value of 93% (26/28). There was a significant difference in node positivity between MRI and pathological staging (= 0.005, Fisher’s exact). Complete radiological response was observed in 4% (2/49). Complete pathological response was observed in 10% (5/49), which were staged 0(1), I(1), II(2) and III(1) postchemoradiotherapy by MRI.

Conclusion  MRI staging following chemoradiation is poor. Over-staging occurs three times more commonly than under-staging. Over-staging is due to poor PPV of nodal assessment.