Does Routine Imaging of Patients for Progression or Relapse Improve Survival in Rhabdomyosarcoma?

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Patients with rhabdomyosarcoma (RMS) who complete therapy typically undergo 4 years of surveillance imaging despite lack of evidence that this improves outcomes. We compared overall survival (OS) between patients in whom progression or relapse was detected by routine clinical evaluation or by imaging.


Children with progressive or relapsed RMS treated at Texas Children's Hospital between 1992 and 2012 were identified and their records were reviewed. Survival time after progression or relapse was compared between two groups: (1) patients in whom progression or relapse was suspected on the basis of clinical history, symptoms, laboratory evaluation, or physical exam; and (2) patients whose progression or relapse was initially detected by imaging.


Of the 43 children with progressive or relapsed RMS, 26 (60%) had metastatic disease at diagnosis and 19 (44%) had alveolar histology. With a median follow up time of 5 years in six survivors, there was no difference in OS between patients in whom progression or relapse was diagnosed based on imaging (n = 15) or by clinical evaluation (n = 28) (3-year OS 20% vs. 11%, respectively, P = 0.38). Disease extent, primary site, and risk group at diagnosis were associated with survival after progression or relapse.


Routine surveillance imaging practice should be critically reviewed for children with RMS. Although our findings must be validated by larger studies, they do have substantive implications. Reduced imaging tailored to the risk and pattern of recurrence, associated risks and cost could improve patient quality of life and decrease health-care expenditure without compromising outcome. Pediatr Blood Cancer 2015. © 2015 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

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