Ultrasonography-guided fine-needle aspiration for the assessment of cervical metastases
Objective: To assess the value of ultrasonography (US) combined with fine-needle aspiration (FNA) cytology for the investigation of lymph node metastases in patients with head and neck cancer. Design: Comparison of clinical examination (palpation) and preoperative US-FNA examination results of cervical nodes in a sample of patients with head and neck cancer. The histological features of the neck dissection specimens are used to validate these 2 variables. Setting: A head and neck oncology service in a tertiary referral hospital. Patients: A consecutive sample of 56 patients with head and neck squamous cell carcinoma, first seen between April 1, 1996, and July 30, 1998, who had neck dissections performed after the US-FNA examination. Intervention: Cervical US-FNA preoperatively, followed by elective or therapeutic radical modified or selective neck dissection. Main Outcome Measures: The histological examination results of subsequent neck dissection specimens are used to determine the sensitivity, specificity, and accuracy of US-FNA for individual nodes. Second, the results of node staging by clinical examination and US-FNA examination are compared. Results: The sensitivity was 89.2%; specificity, 98.1%; and accuracy, 94.5%. Correct node stages were obtained in 52 (93%) of the patients using US-FNA compared with 34 (61%) using palpation. Conclusions: Ultrasonography combined with FNA is a highly accurate technique for the investigation of cervical lymph node metastases. A more accurate diagnosis may result in more appropriate treatment, particularly in a setting with limited resources. Retropharyngeal nodes, micrometastases, and lymph nodes smaller than 4 mm are limitations of US-FNA. Ultrasonography combined with FNA is a useful technique for the staging of head and neck cancer.