Caliper measurement to improve clinical assessment of palpable neck lumps

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one-stop neck lump clinics with ultrasonography and cytopathology support are an expensive and finite resource. consequently, many neck lump patients are assessed in general ear, nose and throat or head and neck clinics. optimal clinical assessment of neck lump size is important to guide investigation, monitor change and provisionally stage nodal disease. the aims of this study were to investigate whether caliper measurement is more accurate than clinical palpation in assessing neck lump size and whether caliper measurement of neck lump size correlates closely with accurate ultrasonography measurement.


A prospective study was carried out involving 50 patients with clinically palpable neck lumps presenting to the one-stop neck lump clinic. Long and short axis neck lump dimensions were estimated first by clinical palpation and second by caliper measurement. estimations were compared with accurate ultrasonography measurement.


The mean combined long and short axis measurement deviation from accurate ultrasonography measurement was smaller for caliper measurement (7.80mm) than for clinical palpation (12.38mm) (p<0.01). there was no significant difference observed between combined axis ultrasonography and combined axis caliper measurement of neck lumps (p=0.462).


Caliper measurement is more accurate than clinical palpation in estimating the size of clinically palpable neck lumps. the use of calipers to measure the skin surface dimensions of palpable neck lumps is statistically comparable to accurate ultrasonography measurement.

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