A perfusion defect (PD) in non-enlarged lymph nodes (LNs) of oral squamous cell carcinoma (OSCC) is the most reliable radiological criterion for the diagnosis of metastasis. However, conventional contrast-enhanced (CE) T1 weighted images using turbo spin echo (TSE) sequence is limited in detecting PD in non-enlarged LNs due to flow artifacts from cervical blood vessels. Vessel wall (VW) MR imaging with blood vessel flow suppression and high spatial resolution may provide new insights into the detection of PD. However, there are no reports in the literature on the usefulness of VW MR imaging for the diagnosis of LN metastasis. It is demonstrated that PD of non-enlarged LNs in CE VR MR imaging of OSCC patients is useful for the diagnosis of metastatic LNs. VW MR imaging was significantly more sensitive in detecting PD of non-enlarged metastatic LNs than conventional TSE imaging on visual evaluation. Furthermore, it was found that the image contrast between PD and surrounding intranodal tissue in CE VW MR images was higher than that in conventional CE TSE images. In the correlation between imaging and histopathological findings of metastatic LNs, all LNs that exhibited PD on CE VW MR images were at an advanced histopathological metastatic stage. The pathology of PD was necrotic tissue with keratinization. The results indicated that PD in CE VW imaging is useful in diagnosing non-enlarged LNs at an advanced metastasis stage. The addition of VW MR imaging to conventional MR examination achieves higher diagnostic performance for non-enlarged metastatic LNs.
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