The use of FDG-positron emission tomography for the evaluation of colorectal metastases of the liver

Am Surg. 1999 Dec;65(12):1183-5.


Each year at least 130,000 people in the United States are diagnosed with colorectal carcinoma. Approximately 14,000 of these patients will have liver metastases, and 20 per cent of these patients will die from these metastases. Surgical resection is the only possible chance for cure in patients with only intrahepatic metastases, and extrahepatic disease is a contraindication to glucose metabolism. Positron emission tomography (PET) allows the in vivo study of the uptake and use of glucose in human cells. Here, we review our experience with the use of PET imaging for the diagnosis and management of colorectal metastases of the liver. We conducted a retrospective chart review of 14 patients undergoing PET imaging for known or suspected hepatic metastases from colorectal carcinoma. Results of CT, magnetic resonance imaging, and PET images were compared with pathological specimens. CT scan identified 7 lesions, and PET identified 31 intrahepatic lesions. Of the 6 patients who underwent surgery, CT identified 4 (20%) and PET identified 17 (85%) of the 20 intrahepatic metastases histologically confirmed. The accuracy (number of lesions) of CT and PET was 20 per cent and 85 per cent, respectively. CT scans had a sensitivity (number of patients) of 50 per cent, and PET had a sensitivity of 100 per cent in patients undergoing surgical resection. PET imaging altered the management in 49 per cent of patients. Twenty-one per cent of patients had their surgery cancelled due to previously undiagnosed extrahepatic metastases. Twenty-one per cent of patients had negative CT scans and underwent surgery on the basis of their PET images, and all had histologically proven disease. One patient avoided a second-look laparotomy when PET revealed a lesion seen on CT to be false positive. PET is an ideal imaging modality to detect intra- and extrahepatic metastases from colorectal carcinomas and would aid in the surgical management of these patients.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Carcinoma / diagnostic imaging
  • Carcinoma / pathology
  • Carcinoma / secondary*
  • Colonic Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Contraindications
  • False Positive Reactions
  • Female
  • Fluorodeoxyglucose F18*
  • Hepatectomy
  • Humans
  • Laparotomy
  • Liver Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging
  • Liver Neoplasms / pathology
  • Liver Neoplasms / secondary*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Care Planning
  • Radiopharmaceuticals*
  • Rectal Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Reoperation
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Tomography, Emission-Computed*
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed


  • Radiopharmaceuticals
  • Fluorodeoxyglucose F18