Median Lingual Lymph Nodes: Prevalence on Imaging and Potential Implications for Oral Cavity Cancer Staging

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This study sought to estimate the prevalence of median lingual lymph node (MLLN) metastases from oral cavity squamous cell carcinoma (OCSCC) and determine the frequency with which MLLNs can be identified with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) in control subjects.


Pathology reports were used to identify patients with surgically treated OCSCC who underwent preoperative positron emission tomography–computed tomography to define the prevalence of MLLN metastases. As a control group, 500 consecutive face-neck MRIs from noncancer patients were reviewed for structures consistent with MLLNs.


In the study group, 1 (0.95%) of 105 OCSCC cases demonstrated a single MLLN metastasis from a lateral tongue tumor (T4aN2c). The MLLN exceeded 1 cm in all planes and was abnormal in morphology. The frequency of suspected MLLNs in controls was 1.0%, with a maximum measurement of 0.9 cm.


Median lingual lymph nodes are infrequently identified with MRI in controls, concordant with the low prevalence of metastases from OCSCC to this inconstant nodal group.

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