Adrenal masses in patients with cancer: PET/CT characterization with combined CT histogram and standardized uptake value PET analysis

Marzio Perri, Paola Erba, Duccio Volterrani, Federica Guidoccio, Elena Lazzeri, Davide Caramella, Giuliano Mariani
AJR. American Journal of Roentgenology 2011, 197 (1): 209-16

OBJECTIVE: Our purpose was to determine the diagnostic performance of 18F-FDG PET/CT for characterizing adrenal masses in patients with cancer, combining standardized uptake value (SUV) and CT histogram analysis.

MATERIALS AND METHODS: A total of 117 adrenal masses in 93 patients with cancer (61 men and 32 women; mean [± SD] age, 67.2 ± 10.3 years; range, 38-84 years) were evaluated with FDG PET/CT. Of the 117 lesions, 42 were malignant according to histopathologic analysis or size change, whereas 75 were benign on the basis of stability for 6 months. Size, mean attenuation value, percentage of negative pixels at CT histogram analysis, maximum SUV (SUV(max)), and average SUV were calculated for each adrenal lesion. Moreover, FDG adrenal uptake was compared with radioactivity of the aorta, liver, and spleen by calculating the SUV ratios of adrenal lesion to aorta, adrenal lesion to liver, and adrenal lesion to spleen. PET/CT value was assessed by using independent t tests and receiving operating characteristic (ROC) analysis.

RESULTS: There was a statistically significant difference in size, attenuation value, percentage of negative pixels, and SUV between benign and malignant masses. All malignant lesions showed FDG activity higher than that in liver, spleen, and aorta, with SUV(max) greater than 2.8 in all cases, whereas with the CT histogram analysis, all lesions with a percentage of negative pixels higher than 10% were benign. Combined SUV and CT histogram analysis yielded 100% sensitivity, 97.3% specificity, 95.7% positive predictive value, and 100% negative predictive value. At ROC analysis, combined SUV and CT histogram analysis (area under the ROC curve [AUC], 0.996) was more accurate than simple SUV(max) analysis (AUC, 0.961) and the combination of SUV(max) and attenuation value (AUC, 0.987).

CONCLUSION: The combination of SUV and CT histogram analysis allowed us to significantly improve the PET/CT diagnostic accuracy for characterizing adrenal lesions, leading to a significant reduction in the number of false-positive cases.

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