INTRODUCTION: Several studies have been performed comparing computed tomography scan with positron emission tomography scan in clinical decision making. Unfortunately, therapeutic decisions are being made based on positron emission tomography scan data without a clear understanding of how well the diagnostic findings correlate with the clinical findings.
METHODS: A retrospective review of 41 patients with metastatic colorectal cancer was performed. All patients had both a computed tomography scan and a positron emission tomography scan before surgical exploration. All underwent surgical re-exploration. Findings were divided into hepatic, extrahepatic, and pelvic regions of the abdomen. Computed tomography scan and positron emission tomography scan findings were either confirmed or refuted by the operative findings.
RESULTS: Positron emission tomography scan was found to be more sensitive than computed tomography scan when compared with actual operative findings in the liver (100 vs. 69 percent, P =0.004), extrahepatic region (90 vs. 52 percent, P =0.015), and abdomen as a whole (87 vs. 61 percent, P <0.001). Sensitivities of positron emission tomography scan and computed tomography scan were not significantly different in the pelvic region (87 vs. 61 percent, P =0.091). In each case, specificity was not significantly different between the two examinations.
CONCLUSION: Computed tomography scan and positron emission tomography scan are both diagnostic tests useful in the evaluation of metastatic colorectal cancer. However, positron emission tomography scanning is more sensitive than computed tomography scanning and more likely to give the correct result when actual metastatic disease is present.
(C) The ASCRS 2001