Is there a role for fluorodeoxyglucose positron emission tomography/computed tomography in cytologically indeterminate thyroid nodules?

Nathan W Hales, Greg A Krempl, Jesus E Medina
American Journal of Otolaryngology 2008, 29 (2): 113-8

OBJECTIVE: The aim of this study was to determine the accuracy of the fluorine 18 ((18)F)-labeled fluorodeoxyglucose positron emission tomography/computed tomography (FDG-PET/CT) scan in the evaluation of thyroid nodules in which the cytopathology of fine-needle aspiration (FNA) biopsies are classified as "indeterminate," ie, either follicular or Hürthle cell lesion.

METHODS: At an academic medical center, we conducted a prospective pilot study of 15 patients with thyroid nodules in whom adequate FNA was diagnosed as indeterminate. All patients underwent a whole-body FDG-PET/CT scan followed by thyroidectomy. Preoperative FDG-PET/CT results and the histopathology of the surgical specimen were compared and statistically analyzed.

RESULTS: The FNA demonstrated follicular cells in 11 (73%) patients, Hürthle cells in 3 (20%) patients, and both types of cells in 1 (7%) patient. The histopathology of the surgical specimen revealed thyroid cancer in 7 (47%) patients. The FDG-PET/CT scan was positive in 8 patients; 4 (50%) patients were found to have cancer. The FDG-PET/CT scan was negative in 7 patients. Four of these patients had benign lesions and 3 had thyroid carcinoma. Thus, 4 (27%) patients had false-positive FDG-PET/CT scans and 3 (20%) patients had false-negative studies. The sensitivity of FDG-PET/CT to detect a malignant focus was 57% with a specificity of 50%. The positive predictive value was 50% and the negative predictive value was 57%.

CONCLUSIONS: In this pilot study of patients with cytologically indeterminate thyroid nodules, FDG-PET/CT was not a predictable indicator of benign or malignant disease. Although a larger series may elucidate a role for FDG-PET/CT, the relatively low predictability shown in this study should caution clinicians about using FDG-PET/CT to consider foregoing thyroidectomy for cytologically indeterminate nodules.

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