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December 1995

Positron Emission Tomography and Ultrasonography: A Comparative Retrospective Study Assessing the Diagnostic Validity in Lymph Node Metastases of Malignant Melanoma

Author Affiliations

From the Departments of Dermatology (Drs Blessing, Carl, Rassner, and Fierlbeck) and Nuclear Medicine (Drs Feine and Geiger), University of Tübingen, Tübingen, Germany.

Arch Dermatol. 1995;131(12):1394-1398. doi:10.1001/archderm.1995.01690240048008

Background and Design:  A retrospective study involving 20 patients with melanoma with clinically suspicious lymph nodes was conducted to compare the diagnostic validity of fludeoxyglucose F 18 positron emission tomography (PET) and real-time ultrasonography in lymph node metastases of malignant mela

Results:  A total of 83 lymph nodes were assessed with ultrasonography and PET. Imaging results were confirmed by histologic studies or close follow-up ultrasonographic examinations. Positron emission tomography revealed a sensitivity of 74% and a specificity of 93%. Both investigative methods show comparative sensitivity and specificity.

Conclusions:  Ultrasonography is much easier to perform, less time-consuming, and less expensive than PET and it is nonhazardous; therefore, it is ideal for follow-up procedures. Since in routine staging procedures, only sites of expected lymph node involvement are examined, there is a risk of metastases being missed in cases of atypical drainage patterns. Fludeoxyglucose F 18 PET can image proliferating tumors in multiple organ systems and lymph node sites in one session, making it suitable for screening in primary staging procedures and for monitoring response to therapy. Since it is based on metabolic changes, there is good differentiation between scar and tumor tissue. Major disadvantages are restricted access to investigation centers, high imaging costs, and limited anatomical location of metastatic lesions. We conclude that PET does not offer significant advantages in the diagnosis of lymph node metastases compared with ultrasonography.(Arch Dermatol. 1995;131:1394-1398)