CT-guided lymphoscintigraphy in patients with squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck: a feasibility study

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Abstract

Accurate knowledge of lymphatic drainage facilitates planning of surgery for patients with squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck. The aim of this study was to evaluate the feasibility of a new injection technique for lymph node detection in patients with squamous cell carcinoma of the hypopharynx and larynx, in whom simple peritumoural injection is hampered by the tumour localisation. Computed tomography (CT)-guided lymphoscintigraphy was performed in a total of 13 patients with squamous cell carcinoma of the hypopharynx and larynx who could not be injected by simple visual inspection. In a first step, contrast medium-enhanced axial 5-mm-thick CT slices of the neck were obtained. After tumour localisation on these CT images, 1-2 ml contrast medium and, in the event of appropriate distribution, subsequently 50 MBq technetium-99m colloid were injected at one to three peritumoural sites under CT guidance. Peritumoural tracer distribution was controlled by thin-slice CT. Subsequently, planar scintigrams from anterior, right and left lateral views were obtained. In all patients, peritumoural colloid application was feasible, as shown on control CT scans. Post injection, neither severe nor minor complications were noted. The patients complained of only low pain sensations with an average score of 1.8 on a pain scale from 0 to 10. Lymphatic drainage was identified in nine of the 13 patients, with a total of 14 detected lymph nodes. In six patients, ipsilateral sentinel lymph nodes were visualised; bilateral sentinel lymph nodes were identified in one patient and contralateral lymphatic drainage was observed in two patients. CT-guided lymphoscintigraphy is a feasible and minimally invasive diagnostic tool for sentinel lymph node detection in patients with squamous cell carcinoma of the hypopharynx and the larynx. In contrast to endoscopic colloid injection under general anaesthesia, this technique seems to be a well-tolerated method for lymphatic mapping prior to surgical procedures.

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