Objectives: Examination of lymph nodes is one of the most common indications for imaging in the head and neck region. The purpose of this study is to evaluate whether multispectral optoacoustic tomography can be used to observe chromophore differences between benign and malignant neck lymph nodes.
Materials and methods: Proof-of-concept ex vivo study of resected cervical lymph nodes from 11 patients. The examination of lymph nodes included imaging with hybrid ultrasound and multispectral tomography system followed by spectral unmixing to separate signals from the endogenous chromophores water, lipid, hemoglobin and oxygenated hemoglobin; calculation of semi-quantitative parameters (total hemoglobin and relative oxygenation of hemoglobin). Comparison of the results from the hybrid measurement with the histopathological results.
Results: Most patients suffered from squamous cell carcinoma (n = 7), also metastasis from salivary gland adenocarcinoma and papillary thyroid carcinoma, were included. The comparison between benign cervical lymph nodes and metastases showed significant differences for the absorbers water, lipid, hemoglobin and oxygenated hemoglobin and total hemoglobin.
Conclusions: Our ex vivo study suggests that multispectral optoacoustic tomography can be used to detect differences between reactive lymph nodes and metastases. The measurement of endogenous chromophores can be used for this purpose. The examinations are non-invasively and thus potentially improve diagnostic prediction. However, potential influences from the ex vivo setting must be considered.