The European respiratory journal. Supplement vol:35 pages:40s-48s
Computed tomography (CT) provides the most detailed imaging information, hence it is generally used as a routine imaging procedure in the tumour, node, metastasis (TNM)-staging of patients with lung cancer. However, despite the continuously ongoing process of improvement in CT scanning in which today's CT scanners combine fast acquisition, fast data reconstruction and high detail, the technique has important limitations. CT can, in some cases, very accurately show tumour extent within, and predict spread beyond the lung. However, the question of whether the tumour has invaded the chest wall or the mediastinum and, if so, whether it is still potentially surgically curable often remains unanswered. In addition, the only sign for predicting lymph node involvement using CT is enlargement. Many studies have shown that this sign is not very reliable. CT is also, with success, being used to evaluate distant metastases although other techniques such as ultrasound and magnetic resonance imaging can have similar or higher accuracies. Despite these well-known limitations, computed tomography will most likely stay the routine imaging procedure for determining resectability and for assessing intra- and extrathoracic spread of lung cancer. The improvement in technology will probably result a better T-staging. The role of computed tomography in nodal staging remains important. It offers the surgeon a road map of the lymph nodes and guides towards the nodes that need biopsy. Combining computed tomography with positron emission tomography, when it becomes more widely available, will add functional images to the detail of computed tomography and will not only improve nodal staging but will probably also allow a better evaluation of distant metastasis and reduce the number of unnecessary interventional procedures.