AIMS: Functional imaging with positron emission tomography/computed tomography (PET/CT) and multiparametric magnetic resonance (mpMR) is increasingly applied for radiotherapy purposes. However, evidence and experience are still limited, and this may lead to clinically relevant differences in accessibility, interpretation and decision making. We investigated the current patterns of care in functional imaging for radiotherapy in the Netherlands in a care evaluation study.
MATERIALS AND METHODS: The availability of functional imaging in radiotherapy centres in the Netherlands was evaluated; features available in >80% of academic and >80% of non-academic centres were considered standard of care. The impact of functional imaging on clinical decision making was evaluated using case questionnaires on lung, head/neck, breast and prostate cancer, with multiple-choice questions on primary tumour delineation, nodal involvement, distant metastasis and incidental findings. Radiation oncologists were allowed to discuss cases in a multidisciplinary approach. Ordinal answers were evaluated by median and interquartile range (IQR) to identify the extent and variability of clinical impact; additional patterns were evaluated descriptively.
RESULTS: Information was collected from 18 radiotherapy centres in the Netherlands (all except two). PET/CT was available for radiotherapy purposes to 94% of centres; 67% in the treatment position and 61% with integrated planning CT. mpMR was available to all centres; 61% in the treatment position. Technologists collaborated between departments to acquire PET/CT or mpMR for radiotherapy in 89%. All sites could carry out image registration for target definition. Functional imaging generally showed a high clinical impact (average median 4.3, scale 1-6) and good observer agreement (average IQR 1.1, scale 0-6). However, several issues resulted in ignoring functional imaging (e.g. positional discrepancies, central necrosis) or poor observer agreement (atelectasis, diagnostic discrepancies, conformation strategies).
CONCLUSIONS: Access to functional imaging with PET/CT and mpMR for radiotherapy purposes, with collaborating technologists and multimodal delineation, can be considered standard of care in the Netherlands. For several specific clinical situations, the interpretation of images may benefit from further standardisation.