A combination of computed tomography scan and ultrasound provides optimal detection of cervical lymph node metastasis in papillary thyroid carcinomas: A systematic review and meta-analysis

Document Type


Publication Date


Publication Title

Head and Neck


Background: Lymph node metastasis (LNM) in patients with papillary thyroid carcinoma (PTC) is common. This meta-analysis assesses the diagnostic accuracy of computed tomography (CT), ultrasound (US), and CT + US in detecting central and lateral LNM. Methods: A systematic review and meta-analysis was performed by searching PubMed, Embase, and Cochrane for studies published up to April 2022. The pooled sensitivity, specificity, and diagnostic odds ratio (DOR) were calculated. The area under the curve (AUC) for summary receiver operating curves (sROC) were compared. Results: The study population included 7902 patients with a total of 15 014 lymph nodes. Twenty-four studies analyzed the sensitivity of the overall neck region in which dual CT + US imaging (55.9%) had greater sensitivities (p < 0.001) than either US (48.4%) or CT (50.4%) alone. The specificity of US alone (89.0%) was greater (p < 0.001) than CT alone (88.5%) or dual imaging (86.8%). The DOR for dual CT + US imaging was greatest (p < 0.001) at 11.134, while the AUCs of the three imaging modalities were similar (p > 0.05). Twenty-one studies analyzed the sensitivity of the central neck region in which both CT (45.8%) and CT + US imaging (43.4%) had greater sensitivities (p < 0.001) than US alone (35.3%). The specificity of all three modalities was higher than 85%. The DOR for CT (7.985) was greater than US alone (4.723, p < 0.001) or dual CT + US imaging (4.907, p = 0.015). The AUC of both CT + US (0.785) and CT alone (0.785) were significantly greater (p < 0.001) than US alone (0.685). Of the 19 studies that reported lateral LNM, CT + US imaging sensitivity (84.5%) was higher than CT alone (69.2%, p < 0.001) and US alone (79.7%, p = 0.038). The specificity of all imaging techniques was all greater than 80.0%. CT + US imaging DOR (35.573) was greater than CT (20.959, p = 0.024) and US (15.181, p < 0.001) individually. The AUC of independent imaging was high (CT: 0.863, US: 0.858) and improved significantly when combined (CT + US: 0.919, p = 0.024 and p < 0.001, respectively). Conclusions: We report an up-to-date analysis elucidating the diagnostic accuracy of LNM detection by either CT, US, or in combination. Our work suggests dual CT + US to be the best for overall detection of LNM and CT to be preferable in detecting central LNM. The use of either CT or US alone may detect lateral LNM with acceptable accuracy, yet dual imaging (CT + US) significantly improved detection rates.

PubMed ID