Specifically, the software is designed to evaluate the subglottic space when optical panendoscopy is inconclusive due to intubation.
"This new software application enables us to virtually fly through the [ear, nose, and throat] airspace and display both functional and morphologic data at the same time," said lead study author Dr. Till-Alexander Heusner from the university's Institute of Diagnostic and Interventional Radiology. "Virtual FDG-PET/CT panendoscopy may give us the possibility to plan fiber-optic evaluation in the future."
In this study, Heusner and colleagues reviewed whole-body FDG-PET/CT datasets, which included dedicated head and neck protocols for 40 consecutive patients with a mean age of 61 years and confirmed pharyngeal and laryngeal malignancies. Virtual 3D FDG-PET/CT panendoscopies were then reconstructed using this investigational software application.
The nasopharynx, oropharynx, laryngopharynx, epiglottis, subglottis, and tracheobronchial tree were accessible in all 40 patients, according to the researchers. In addition, the laryngopharynx, aryepiglottic folds, and piriform sinus were accessible in 37 patients (92%) each, while the glottis could be evaluated in 33 patients (82%) and the oral cavity in 16 (40%).
The software also found the primary tumor in 36 patients (90%), with a mean processing time for virtual FDG-PET/CT panendoscopies of 145 ± 98 seconds.
As this was an initial feasibility test, the next step is to "adjust and refine the software algorithm in use for a more specific tumor display, to test the diagnostic accuracy in a greater patient population, and to compare it to the potential of standard [fiber-optic] panendoscopy," Heusner said.