Preoperative PET Can Reduce Unnecessary Lung Surgeries

March 27, 2014

The use of PET imaging in non-small cell lung cancer patients reduced the number of unnecessary surgeries by 50 percent.

Patients who receive preoperative positron emission tomography (PET) are less likely to receive unnecessary lung surgeries, according to a recent study in the Journal of Nuclear Medicine.

The study data suggests that 30 percent of the surgeries performed for non-small cell lung cancer patients in a community-wide clinical study were deemed unnecessary. The use of preoperative PET reduced unnecessary surgeries by 50 percent.

PET imaging helps stage a patient’s disease by providing functional images of tumors throughout the body, especially metastasis, or areas where the cancer has spread. Accurate staging for lung cancer is critical for identifying patients with advanced disease because surgical resection provides minimal long-term clinical benefit if the disease is not confined to the lungs.

Few studies have been able to identify the impact of preoperative PET on clinical decisions and treatment, but a thorough statistical analysis accounting for selection bias and other confounding factors in the JNM study allowed researchers to conclude that PET imaging eliminated approximately half of unnecessary surgeries.

“It has become standard of care for lung cancer patients to receive preoperative PET imaging,” Steven Zeliadt, PhD and lead author of the study, said in a release. “The prevailing evidence reinforces the general understanding within the medical community that PET is very useful for identifying occult metastasis and that it helps get the right people to surgery while avoiding unnecessary surgeries for those who would not benefit.”