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Limited Utility of Routine Surveillance MRI Following Chemoradiation for Advanced-Stage Oropharynx Carcinoma


Objectives. To determine the utility of routine surveillance MRI in detecting locoregional recurrence following definitive chemoradiation in advanced-stage oropharynx carcinoma. Methods. We identified patients with Stage III-IV oropharynx carcinoma who were treated with chemoradiation between April 2000 and September 2004 and underwent longitudinal followup care at our institution. Patient charts were retrospectively reviewed for findings on MRI surveillance imaging, clinical signs and symptoms, and recurrence. Results. Forty patients received a total of 229 surveillance MRI scans with a minimum follow-up of three years (mean of 5.6 scans per patient). Six patients experienced false-positive surveillance studies that resulted in intervention. Four patients experienced recurrent disease, two of whom had new symptoms or exam findings that preceded radiographic identification of disease. Surveillance MRI scans identified recurrent disease in two asymptomatic patients who were salvaged, one of whom remains free of disease at follow-up. The overall sensitivity and specificity of the MRI surveillance program were 50 and 83 percent, respectively. The mean charge to each patient for the surveillance program was approximately $10,000 annually. Conclusion. In oropharyngeal cancer patients who have been treated with chemoradiation, an imaging surveillance program utilizing MRI produces limited opportunity for successful salvage.

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