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Benefit of PET in patients with head and neck tumors cannot be assessed
Date:4/29/2011

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No proven advantages of PET for diagnostic accuracy

The second research question of the report was whether by means of PET or PET/CT it can be determined more reliably than with conventional diagnostic techniques what stage the tumour has reached ("staging"), whether it responds to treatment and can ultimately be treated successfully, as well as whether the disease (in the case of justified suspicion) has actually reappeared ("recurrence"). It was also investigated whether by means of PET or PET/CT the tumour search is improved in patients with an unknown primary tumour. These are patients with head and neck metastases, the origin of which is unknown.

These questions are summarized under the term "diagnostic accuracy", which is the ability of a test to distinguish correctly between sick and healthy patients. However, studies that only investigate diagnostic accuracy do not allow conclusions about the benefit for patients. This is because greater diagnostic accuracy does not automatically lead to the choice of a more targeted therapy or to an increase in quality of life or a decrease in mortality rates.

A larger number of studies were available on this topic; however, their informative value was shown to be greatly limited. This is due to the fact that, on the one hand, the number of participants per study was low and, on the other, the studies were planned or conducted in such way that bias could not be excluded or was even probable.

Overall, in the comparison of PET with CT, no technology was superior to another. PET identifies new tumours relatively accurately, but also is often the cause of false alarms. However, here too the results were ultimately of insufficient informative value.

Researchers call for further studies

In view of this unsatisfying evidence base, overall the authors of the report see a substantial need for improvement in the planning, conduct and reporting of
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