Clinical characteristics and work-up of small to intermediate-sized pulmonary nodules in a Chinese dedicated cancer hospital

Xiaonan Cui, Daiwei Han, Marjolein A. Heuvelmans, et al.


Objectives: To evaluate the characteristics and work-up of small to intermediate-sized pulmonary nodules in a Chinese dedicatedcancer hospital.

Methods: Patients with pulmonary nodules 4–25 mm in diameter detected via computed tomography (CT) in 2013 wereconsecutively included. The analysis was restricted to patients with a histological nodule diagnosis or a 2-year follow-up periodwithout nodule growth confirming benign disease. Patient information was collected from hospital records.

Results: Among the 314 nodules examined in 299 patients, 212 (67.5%) nodules in 206 (68.9%) patients were malignant.Compared to benign nodules, malignant nodules were larger (18.0 mm vs. 12.5 mm, P < 0.001), more often partly solid (16.0%vs. 4.7%, P < 0.001) and more often spiculated (72.2% vs. 41.2%, P < 0.001), with higher density in contrast-enhanced CT (67.0HU vs. 57.5 HU, P = 0.015). Final diagnosis was based on surgery in 232 out of 314 (73.9%) nodules, 166 of which were identifiedas malignant [30 (18.1%) stage III or IV] and 66 as benign. In 36 nodules (11.5%), diagnosis was confirmed by biopsy and theremainder verified based on stability of nodule size at follow-up imaging (n = 46, 14.6%). Among 65 nodules subjected to gene(EGFR) mutation analyses, 28 (43.1%) cases (EGFR19 n = 13; EGFR21 n = 15) were identified as EGFR mutant and 37 (56.9%) asEGFR wild-type. Prior to surgery, the majority of patients [n = 194 (83.6%)] received a contrast-enhanced CT scan for staging ofboth malignant [n = 140 (84.3%)] and benign [n = 54 (81.8%)] nodules. Usage of positron emission tomography (PET)-CT wasrelatively uncommon [n = 38 (16.4%)].

Conclusions: CT-derived nodule assessment assists in diagnosis of small to intermediate- sized malignant pulmonary nodules.Currently, contrast-enhanced CT is commonly used as the sole diagnostic confirmation technique for pre-surgical staging, oftenresulting in surgery for late-stage disease and unnecessary surgery in cases of benign nodules.

Cite this article as: Cui X, Han D, Heuvelmans MA, Du Y, Zhao Y, Zhang L,et al. Clinical characteristics and work-up of small to intermediate-sizedpulmonary nodules in a Chinese dedicated cancer hospital. Cancer Biol Med.2020; 17: 199-207. doi: 10.20892/j.issn.2095-3941.2019.0028


Lung nodule; diagnosis; computed tomography; pathology; China

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