Image fusion of thallium-201 SPECT and MR imaging for the assessment of recurrent head and neck tumors following flap reconstructive surgery

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The aim of this study was to assess the value of fused MR and Tl-201 single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) images in the diagnosis of recurrent head and neck tumors in patients after flap reconstruction surgery. Twenty-four patients after resection of primary head and neck tumors with flap reconstruction were suspected of having recurrent tumor by follow-up MR examination. Both MR examination and Tl-201 SPECT were prospectively performed to produce fused images. For qualitative analysis, two independent readers separately evaluated the existence of tumor recurrence in the fused images. The Tl-201 uptake of the lesion (Tl index) was also quantitatively compared with that of the normal nuchal muscles. Eighteen patients were histologically proved as having recurrence. The remaining 6 patients, false positive on MRI alone, had non-recurrence. Using the fused images, false positive was found in 1 case for one reader and 2 cases for the other reader. The Tl index of recurrent tumors was significantly higher (p<0.001) than that of non-recurrent mass lesions. In the assessment of recurrent tumors following flap reconstruction surgery in the head and neck, the use of fused MRI and Tl-201 SPECT images can reduce the number of false positives.

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