Comparison of thoracic radiographs and single breath-hold helical CT for detection of pulmonary nodules in dogs with metastatic neoplasia

Nemanic S, London CA, Wisner ER.

J Vet Intern Med 2006;20:508-515.

Imaging studies in people indicate that x-ray computed tomography (CT) is a more sensitive technique than thoracic radiography for the detection of pulmonary metastasic neoplasia. Systematic studies comparing CT and thoracic radiographic techniques in veterinary patients have not been performed. The present retrospective study was designed to directly compare the efficacy of these 2 techniques in detecting pulmonary nodules in dogs. Eighteen dogs with histologically confirmed pulmonary metastatic neoplasia had contemporaneous thoracic radiographs and pulmonary CT scans compared. Quantitative analyses included estimation of pulmonary nodule size, number, and lobar distribution on thoracic radiographs and CT images. Only 9% of CT-detected pulmonary nodules were identified on thoracic radiographs (P < .003). The lower size threshold was approximately 1 mm to detect pulmonary nodules on CT images and 7-9 mm to reliably detect nodules on radiographs (P < .0001). Additionally, pulmonary nodules were detected in a significantly greater number of lung lobes using CT as compared with thoracic radiographs (P < .0001). These data indicate that CT is significantly more sensitive than thoracic radiography for detecting soft-tissue nodules in dogs. As such, thoracic CT should be considered in any patient with neoplasia that has potential for pulmonary metastasis to more reliably stage the disease, particularly when accurate characterization of the extent and distribution of pulmonary metastatic disease affects therapeutic planning.