Risk of malignancy in thyroid incidentalomas identified by fluorodeoxyglucose-positron emission tomography

Mark S. Cohen, Nuri Arslan, Farrokh Dehdashti, Gerard M. Doherty, Terry C. Lairmore, L. Michael Brunt, Jeffrey F. Moley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

262 Scopus citations


Background. Thyroid tumors often exhibit increased metabolic activity, as evidenced by enhanced glucose uptake on positron emission tomography (PET) with use of 18F-fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG). The incidence of new thyroid lesions found on routine FDG-PET has not been previously reported. Methods. A retrospective review of all patients who underwent FDG-PET imaging at our institution from June 1, 1996, through March 15, 2001, identified patients with a newly diagnosed thyroid lesion. Thyroid incidentaloma was defined as a thyroid lesion seen initially on FDG-PET in a patient without a history of thyroid disease. Available follow-up data were documented. Results. One hundred and two of 4525 FDG-PET examinations (2.3%) demonstrated thyroid incidentalomas. Eighty-seven of 102 patients had no thyroid histology because of other malignancies. Fifteen patients had thyroid biopsy: 7 (47%) with thyroid cancer, 6 (40%) with nodular hyperplasia, 1 with thyroiditis, and 1 with atypical cells of indeterminate origin. The average standardized uptake values were higher for malignant compared with benign lesions. Conclusions. Thyroid incidentaloma identified by FDG-PET occurred with a frequency of 2.3%. Of the thyroid incidentalomas that underwent biopsy, 47% were found to be malignant. Given the risk of malignancy, patients with new thyroid lesions on PET scan should have a tissue diagnosis if it will influence outcome and management. Standardized uptake values may be helpful in predicting benign versus malignant histology.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)941-946
Number of pages6
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2001


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