Utility of abdominal imaging to assess for liver metastasis in patients with head and neck cancer and abnormal liver function tests

Philip G. Chen, Stephen S. Schoeff, Cara A. Watts, James F. Reibel, Paul A. Levine, David C. Shonka, Mark J. Jameson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

2 Scopus citations


Purpose To determine the utility of abdominal imaging to further evaluate abnormal pre-operative liver function tests (LFTs) in patients with head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC). Methods Records of patients evaluated by the head and neck surgery service from January 2004 through December 2009 were reviewed. For patients with abnormal alkaline phosphatase, alanine transaminase, or aspartate transaminase, subsequent abdominal imaging was assessed. Results Of the 862 patients with HNSCC who had documented LFTs, 109 (12.6%) had one or more abnormal values. In the same time period, LFTs were also obtained on 361 patients with benign head and neck tumors; of these, 40 (11.1%) had abnormalities. Of the 109 patients with HNSCC and abnormal LFTs, 78 (71.6%) underwent abdominal imaging (ultrasound, CT, MRI, or PET/CT). Overall, liver metastasis was demonstrated in only 1 of 109 patients with abnormal LFTs (0.92%) and in only 1 of 862 patients with HNSCC (0.12%). Conclusions While HNSCC patients rarely present with liver metastasis, they often have abnormal LFTs. Although the presence of liver metastasis can dramatically change patient management, the yield of follow-up liver imaging for all patients with elevated LFTs is exceedingly low. Thus, the use of risk-stratified abdominal imaging may be prudent and cost effective in a select group of patients in whom distant metastasis is more likely. However, characteristics of this group are difficult to define given the rarity of liver metastasis in HNSCC.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)137-140
Number of pages4
JournalAmerican Journal of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Medicine and Surgery
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Mar 1 2014


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Otorhinolaryngology

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