BACKGROUND USPIO is a contrast agent for MRI that can generate T2W images with low signal intensities. After subcutaneous or intravenous injection of USPIO, normal lymph node tissues uptake these nano-particles, but tumor cells do not. Thus, tumor metastasis can be detected using this contrast agent. OBJECTIVE The aim of this study was to access the feasibility of USPIO enhanced MRI for the detection of cervical lymph node metastasis in a pyriform sinus carcinoma animal model and to investigate the ability of USPIO to enhance images of cervical lymph node metastases. METHODS AND FINDINGS Twenty New Zealand rabbits were randomly divided into tumor and inflammatory groups, and each group contained 10 rabbits. In the inflammatory group, a 0.5 ml egg yolk emulsion was injected into the sub-mandibular muscle of the rabbits to induce an inflammatory reaction in their cervical lymph nodes. In the tumor group, a VX2 tumor tissue suspension was transplanted into the pyriform sinus sub-mucosa of the rabbits using direct laryngoscope. Four weeks after the tumor or egg yolk injection, MRIs were performed before and after USPIO injection to observe the imaging enhancement features of USPIO. After that, a histo-pathological analysis was performed for all rabbits. We found the metastatic lymph nodes had no signal reduced intensity or irregular signal reduced intensity on T2-weighted image by using USPIO enhancement. In the tumor group,the sensitivity and specificity of plain MRI were 57.6% and 60.7%. The corresponding values of USPIO-enhanced MRl were 96.1% and 85.7%. (P<0.05). CONCLUSION The features and the extent of the lymph node metastases corresponded to those observed on USPIO-enhanced MR images. USPIO-enhanced MRI is useful for the detection and estimation of lymph node metastasis in this cervical carcinoma animal model.