Thirteen patients with head and neck cancer underwent staging by clinical examination, computed tomography (CT), and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) in a standardized blinded fashion. All patients subsequently underwent radical neck dissection with subsequent pathologic staging. CT and MRI each predicted 93% of staging results correctly, with clinical examination correct 67% of the time. Staging of primary tumors had an accuracy of 90% by clinical examination, 40% by CT, and 50% by MRI when compared to staging of the pathologic specimen. Understaging was seen in 50% of CT scans and 30% of MRI scans. We believe either CT or MRI should be considered for routine staging of the neck in all head and neck malignancies.
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