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To assess the value of positron emission tomography with 18fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG-PET) for preoperative lymph node staging of patients with primary cancer of the esophagus and gastroesophageal junction.FDG-PET appears to be a promising tool in the preoperative staging of cancer of the esophagus and gastroesophageal junction. Recent reports indicate a higher sensitivity and specificity for detection of stage IV disease and a higher specificity for diagnosis of lymph node involvement compared with the standard use of computed tomography and endoscopic ultrasound.Forty-two patients entered the prospective study. All underwent attenuation-corrected FDG-PET imaging of the neck, thorax, and upper abdomen, a spiral computed tomography scan, and an endoscopic ultrasound. The gold standard consisted exclusively of the histology of sampled nodes obtained by extensive two-field or three-field lymphadenectomies (n = 39) or from guided biopsies of suspicious distant nodes indicated by imaging (n = 3).The FDG-PET scan had lower accuracy for the diagnosis of locoregional nodes (N1–2) than combined computed tomography and endoscopic ultrasound (48% vs. 69%) because of a significant lack of sensitivity (22% vs. 83%). The accuracy for distant nodal metastasis (M+Ly), however, was significantly higher for FDG-PET than the combined use of computed tomography and endoscopic ultrasound (86% vs. 62%). Sensitivity was not significantly different, but specificity was greater (90% vs. 69%). The FDG-PET scan correctly upstaged five patients (12%) from N1–2 stage to M+Ly stage. One patient was falsely downstaged by FDG-PET scanning.FDG-PET scanning improves the clinical staging of lymph node involvement based on the increased detection of distant nodal metastases and on the superior specificity compared with conventional imaging modalities.