Positron emission tomography (PET) using 2-[18F]fluoro-2-deoxy-D-glucose (FDG) is a useful diagnostic tool for the detection of tumours. Using dynamic FDG PET, net metabolic clearance of FDG, K, can be calculated by Gjedde-Patlak analysis of the time course of the radioactivity concentrations in tissue and arterial blood. We examined whether time-activity curves (TACs) based on arterial blood sampling could be replaced by TACs obtained from the descending aorta in dynamic PET scans of patients with liver tumours. The study was performed in two parts, using data from dynamic liver scans with arterial blood sampling in human subjects: First, data from four patients with no liver tumours and five patients with liver tumours were used as a training group. Volumes of interest were defined in the descending aorta (aorta VOIs) by four different methods. K values were calculated based on the corresponding TACs and compared with those based on TACs of the arterial blood sample radioactivity concentrations. The aorta VOI which gave K values that were in best agreement with the K values based on the arterial blood sample measurements was called the AORTA-VOI. Use of the AORTA-VOI was subsequently tested in a test group of 19 tumour patients by comparing the K values from the AORTA-VOI with the K values based on the arterial blood sample measurements. The AORTA-VOI consisted of the sum of small regions of interest (ROIs) drawn in the centre of the aorta (approximately six pixels of 2.4x2.4 mm per transaxial slice of 3.1 mm thickness) in as many transaxial slices as possible (30-40 slices). There were no statistically significant differences between the two sets of K values. The ratio of K values in tumour tissue to K values in reference tissue was 2.1-9.7:1 (mean, 5.4:1) based on the AORTA TACs, and 2.1-8.4:1 (mean, 4.6:1) based on blood sample TACs (P>0.3). We conclude that arterial blood sampling can be replaced by the present AORTA-VOI in the calculation of the net metabolic clearance of FDG in dynamic PET studies of liver tumours in human subjects.