Advances in imaging head and neck tumours

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Purpose of review

The intention of this article is to review the recently published studies summarizing new developments in medical imaging for head and neck tumours.

Recent findings

Recent technological improvements in imaging have modified the diagnostic approach to these tumours. The main trends can be summarized as follows: improvement in resolution owing to the detection and study of smaller lesions (achieved with magnetic resonance surface coils and parallel imaging); acceleration of data acquisition thus achieving high-quality vascular imaging; improvement in data manipulation and fusion techniques with metabolic imaging from positron emission tomography scanners, permitting more accurate delineation of target volumes for new radiation therapy techniques. In addition, new techniques are emerging leading to a switch from purely anatomical imaging to more functional or metabolic techniques, including dynamic contrast-enhanced approaches to studying tumour perfusion and vascularization, magnetic resonance spectroscopic techniques to assess tissue metabolites, and magnetic resonance diffusion techniques to evaluate free water motion and interstitial space.


Finally, new contrast agents have been developed to detect and characterize metastatic lymph nodes, even when they do not match the classical size criteria.

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