The assessment of nodal involvement in patients with rectal cancer (RC) is fundamental in disease management. Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) is routinely used for local and nodal staging of RC by using morphological criteria. The actual dimensional and morphological criteria for nodal assessment present several limitations in terms of sensitivity and specificity. For these reasons, several different techniques, such as Diffusion Weighted Imaging (DWI), Intravoxel Incoherent Motion (IVIM), Diffusion Kurtosis Imaging (DKI), and Dynamic Contrast Enhancement (DCE) in MRI have been introduced but still not fully validated. Positron Emission Tomography (PET)/CT plays a pivotal role in the assessment of LNs; more recently PET/MRI has been introduced. The advantages and limitations of these imaging modalities will be provided in this narrative review. The second part of the review includes experimental techniques, such as iron-oxide particles (SPIO), and dual-energy CT (DECT). Radiomics analysis is an active field of research, and the evidence about LNs in RC will be discussed. The review also discusses the different recommendations between the European and North American guidelines for the evaluation of LNs in RC, from anatomical considerations to structured reporting.
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