Combined [18F]fluorodeoxyglucose positron emission tomography and computed tomography (FDG-PET/CT) for detection of recurrent, 131I-negative thyroid cancer

Steven E. Finkelstein, Perry W. Grigsby, Barry A. Siegel, Farrokh Dehdashti, Jeffrey F. Moley, Bruce L. Hall

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

55 Scopus citations


Background: Whole-body 131I scintigraphy (WBS) and serial thyroglobulin measurement (Tg) are standard methods for detecting thyroid cancer recurrence after total/near total thyroidectomy and 131I ablation. Some patients develop elevated Tg (Tg-positive) or there is clinical suspicion of recurrence, but WBS are negative (WBS-negative). This may reflect non-iodine-avid recurrence or metastasis. In 2002, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) approved positron emission tomography with [ 18F]fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG-PET) for Tg-positive/WBS-negative patients with follicular-cell-origin thyroid cancer. Limited data are available regarding the performance of combined FDG-PET/computed tomography (FDG-PET/CT) for detecting recurrent thyroid cancer in WBS-neg patients. Methods: This retrospective review of prospectively collected data analyzed 65 patients who had FDG-PET/CT for suspected thyroid cancer recurrence (April 1998-August 2006). Patients were WBS-negative but were suspected to have recurrence based on Tg levels or clinical grounds. Suspected FDG-PET/CT abnormalities were reported as benign or malignant. Lesions were ultimately declared benign or malignant by surgical pathology or clinical outcome (disease progression). Results: Of 65 patients who underwent FDG-PET/CT, 47 had positive FDG-PET/CT. Of the positive FDG-PET/CT, 43 studies were true positives, with 21 (49%) confirmed pathologically by surgical resection. The four false positives (3/4 confirmed pathologically) included an infundibular cyst, an inflamed supraclavicular cyst, pneumonitis, and degenerative disc disease. Of the 18 FDG-PET/CT studies that were negative, 17 were true negatives and one was a false negative (metastatic papillary carcinoma). Thus, FDG-PET/CT demonstrated a patient-based sensitivity of 98%, specificity of 81%, positive predictive value of 91%, and negative predictive value of 94%. Conclusions: FDG-PET/CT is useful for detecting thyroid cancer recurrence in WBS-negative patients, and can assist decision making.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)286-292
Number of pages7
JournalAnnals of Surgical Oncology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2008


  • I Scintigraphy
  • Thyroid cancer


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