Comparison of CT, MRI, and F-18 FDG PET/CT for initial N-staging of oral squamous cell carcinoma: a cost-effectiveness analysis

Egon Burian, Benjamin Palla, Nicholas Callahan, Thomas Pyka, Constantin Wolff, Claudio E. von Schacky, Annabelle Schmid, Matthias F. Froelich, Johannes Rübenthaler, Marcus R. Makowski, Felix G. Gassert

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Background and purpose: Treatment of oral squamous cell carcinoma (OSCC) is based on clinical exam, biopsy, and a precise imaging-based TNM-evaluation. A high sensitivity and specificity for magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and F-18 FDG PET/CT are reported for N-staging. Nevertheless, staging of oral squamous cell carcinoma is most often based on computed tomography (CT) scans. This study aims to evaluate cost-effectiveness of MRI and PET/CT compared to standard of care imaging in initial staging of OSCC within the US Healthcare System. Methods: A decision model was constructed using quality-adjusted life years (QALYs) and overall costs of different imaging strategies including a CT of the head, neck, and the thorax, MRI of the neck with CT of the thorax, and whole body F-18 FDG PET/CT using Markov transition simulations for different disease states. Input parameters were derived from literature and willingness to pay (WTP) was set to US $100,000/QALY. Deterministic sensitivity analysis of diagnostic parameters and costs was performed. Monte Carlo modeling was used for probabilistic sensitivity analysis. Results: In the base-case scenario, total costs were at US $239,628 for CT, US $240,001 for MRI, and US $239,131 for F-18 FDG PET/CT whereas the model yielded an effectiveness of 5.29 QALYs for CT, 5.30 QALYs for MRI, and 5.32 QALYs for F-18 FDG PET/CT respectively. F-18 FDG PET/CT was the most cost-effective strategy over MRI as well as CT, and MRI was the cost-effective strategy over CT. Deterministic and probabilistic sensitivity analysis showed high robustness of the model with incremental cost effectiveness ratio remaining below US $100,000/QALY for a wide range of variability of input parameters. Conclusion: F-18 FDG PET/CT is the most cost-effective strategy in the initial N-staging of OSCC when compared to MRI and CT. Despite less routine use, both whole body PET/CT and MRI are cost-effective modalities in the N-staging of OSCC. Based on these findings, the implementation of PET/CT for initial staging could be suggested to help reduce costs while increasing effectiveness in OSCC.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3870-3877
Number of pages8
JournalEuropean Journal of Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging
Issue number11
StatePublished - Sep 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • CT
  • Cost effectiveness analysis
  • Head and neck cancer
  • MRI
  • Oncology
  • PET/CT


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