18-fluorodeoxyglucose positron emission tomography enhances computed tomography diagnosis of malignant intraductal papillary mucinous neoplasms of the pancreas

Cosimo Sperti, Sergio Bissoli, Claudio Pasquali, Laura Frison, Guido Liessi, Franca Chierichetti, Sergio Pedrazzoli
Annals of Surgery 2007, 246 (6): 932-7; discussion 937-9

OBJECTIVE: To assess the reliability of 18-fluorodeoxyglucose positron emission tomography (18-FDG PET) in distinguishing benign from malignant intraductal papillary mucinous neoplasms (IPMNs) of the pancreas and its contribution to surgical decision making.

SUMMARY BACKGROUND DATA: Pancreatic IPMNs are increasingly recognized, often as incidental findings, especially in people over age 70 and 80. Computed tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance (MR) are unreliable in discriminating a benign from a malignant neoplasm. 18-FDG PET as imaging procedure based on the increased glucose uptake by tumor cells has been suggested for diagnosis and staging of pancreatic cancer.

METHODS: From January 1998 to December 2005, 64 patients with suspected IPMNs were prospectively investigated with 18-FDG PET in addition to conventional imaging techniques [helical-CT in all and MR and magnetic resonance cholangiopancreatography (MRCP) in 60]. 18-FDG PET was analyzed visually and semiquantitatively using the standard uptake value (SUV). The validation of the diagnosis was made by a surgical procedure (n = 44), a percutaneous biopsy (n = 2), main duct cytology (n = 1), or follow-up (n = 17). Mean and median follow-up times were 25 and 27.5 months, respectively (range, 12-90 months).

RESULTS: Twenty-seven patients (42%) were asymptomatic. Forty-two patients underwent pancreatic resection, 2 palliative surgery, and 20 did not undergo surgery. An adenoma was diagnosed in 13 patients, a borderline tumor in 8, a carcinoma in situ in 5, and an invasive cancer in 21; in 17 patients a tumor sampling was not performed and therefore the histology remained undetermined. Positive criteria of increased uptake on 18-FDG PET was absent in 13 of 13 adenomas and 7 of 8 borderline IPMNs, but was present in 4 of 5 carcinoma in situ (80%) and in 20 of 21 invasive cancers (95%). Conventional imaging technique was strongly suggestive of malignancy in 2 of 5 carcinomas in situ and in 13 of 21 invasive carcinomas (62%). Furthermore, conventional imaging had findings that would be considered falsely positive in 1 of 13 adenomas (8%) and in 3 of 8 borderline neoplasms (37.5%). Therefore, positive 18-FDG PET influenced surgical decision making in 10 patients with malignant IPMN. Furthermore, negative findings on 18-FDG PET prompted us to use a more limited resection in 15 patients, and offered a follow-up strategy in 18 patients (3 positive at CT scan) for the future development of a malignancy.

CONCLUSIONS: 18-FDG PET is more accurate than conventional imaging techniques (CT and MR) in distinguishing benign from malignant (invasive and noninvasive) IPMNs. 18-FDG PET seems to be much better than conventional imaging techniques in selecting IPMNs patients, especially when old and asymptomatic, for surgical treatment or follow-up.

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