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Brain Metastases: Sensitivity and Specificity

Introduction: Often patients with a known primary cancer need to be staged to evaluate for brain metastases. This may occur in patients with neurological symptoms or those with cancers with high propensity for metastatic disease in the brain (e.g. lung cancer).

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Tags: Neoplasm Neurologic Tag this Diagnosis.

The sensitivity and specificity of findings for Brain Metastases are listed below. See the left navigation bar to change the display.


Finding SensitivitySpecificity Comments, Study
Contrast-enhanced Head CT Edit Sensitivity = 60%

versus CE-MRI. Per lesion . Very old data.

Another study found sensitivity of 69% for detecting additional lesions in patients with one lesion seen on CT.

Study: AJNR Am J Neuroradiol. 1991 Mar-Apr;12(2):293-300. PMID: 1902031

J Neurooncol. 1999;44(3):275-81. PMID: 10720207

Non-contrast MRI Edit Sensitivity = 50.8%

per lesion, versus CE-MRI. Very old data in obsolete scanners, unclear how relevant this is to today.

Study: AJNR Am J Neuroradiol. 1991 Mar-Apr;12(2):293-300. PMID: 1902031

PET/CT scan Edit 27.3%97.6%

versus MRI in patients with lung cancer

Study: Nuklearmedizin. 2011;50(3):101-6. PMID: 21165538