BackgroundEarly detection of soft-tissue sarcoma recurrences may decrease the morbidity of reoperation and improve oncologic outcomes. The benefit of imaging compared with clinical surveillance for detecting local recurrences remains controversial, as prior studies have varied in terms of inclusion criteria, factors analyzed, and outcomes reported.Questions/purposes(1) What proportion of local recurrences were detected by surveillance imaging compared with clinical signs and symptoms? (2) Were local recurrences detected by imaging smaller than those detected by clinical surveillance? (3) Were relevant tumor, patient, or operative characteristics associated with clinically occult local recurrence?MethodsOver a 20-year period ending in 2018, we treated 545 patients for soft-tissue sarcoma. During that period, we recommended that patients receive a surgical excision as well as radiation therapy based on current clinical guidelines. Of those we treated, 9% (51 of 545) were excluded for having a low-grade liposarcoma, and 4% (21 of 545) were excluded for being metastatic at the time of presentation. Of the remaining patients, 22% (107 of 473) were lost to follow-up before 2 years but were not known to have died. There were a remaining 366 patients for analysis in this retrospective study of electronic medical records from a single center. Patients routinely underwent advanced imaging and clinical follow-up at intervals based on currently available guidelines for sarcoma surveillance. We recommended that patients with high-grade sarcomas be followed every 3 months until 2 years, then every 6 months until 3 years, then annually thereafter. In contrast, we recommended that patients with low-grade sarcomas be followed every 6 months until 2 years, then annually thereafter. In addition, patients were encouraged to return for evaluation if they noted a new mass or other symptoms. In general, patients with high-grade sarcomas received postoperative radiation therapy unless they underwent amputation, while intermediate- and low-grade sarcomas were radiated according to clinical concern for local recurrence, as determined by the multidisciplinary sarcoma team. Seventeen percent (61 of 366) of patients developed or presented with a local recurrence. Of the local recurrences detected by surveillance imaging, 17 were detected by MRI, three were detected by position emission tomography, and one was detected by CT scan. The proportion of local recurrences first identified by advanced imaging versus clinical detection (physical examination, self-detection, or symptomatic presentation) were compared. Logistic regression with a Wald chi-square test was performed to evaluate if tumor, patient, or operative characteristics are associated with clinical versus imaging detection of local recurrences.ResultsA higher proportion of local recurrences were detected by clinical signs and symptoms than by routine imaging (66% (40 of 61) versus 34% (21 of 61), binomial proportion 0.66 [95% CI 0.55 to 0.77]; p = 0.007). With the numbers available, there was no difference in the tumor size detected by clinical signs and symptoms compared with surveillance imaging. The median (interquartile range) largest tumor dimension was 3.9 cm (2.5 to 7.8) for clinical surveillance versus 4.5 cm (2.7 to 6.2) for imaging surveillance (p = 0.98). We were unable to identify any associated factors, alone or in combination, with detection by physical exam, including patient age, tumor size, tumor depth, tumor location, operative closure type, or radiation status. Characteristics such as larger tumors, more superficial tumors, low BMI, the absence of a flap reconstruction or radiation treatment, were not associated with a greater likelihood of detection by physical examination.ConclusionsWe found that although a high proportion of local recurrences were detected by clinical signs and symptoms, approximately one-third were detected by imaging. Although not all patients may benefit equally from routine imaging, we were unable to identify any patient, tumor, or operative characteristics to define a subgroup of patients that are more or less likely benefit from this surveillance technique. These findings support current surveillance guidelines that recommend the use of advanced imaging; however, other factors may also warrant consideration. Futher insight could be gained by studying surveillance imaging in terms of optimal frequency, cost-effectiveness, and psychosocial implications for patients.Level of EvidenceLevel III, diagnostic study.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2812-2820
Number of pages9
JournalClinical orthopaedics and related research
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2020


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