Superphysiologic FDG Uptake in the Non-Paralyzed Vocal Cord. Resolution of a False-Positive PET Result with Combined PET-CT Imaging

Clin Positron Imaging. 2000 Sep;3(5):207-211. doi: 10.1016/s1095-0397(00)00099-6.


The application of positron emission tomography imaging with 18F-fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG) to the extracranial head and neck has been proven to be effective in the detection and staging of malignancy. The FDG uptake of normal laryngeal tissue is symmetric and low, while benign lesions typically have only slight increases in FDG uptake. We report a case of asymmetric, superphysiologic FDG uptake in the contralateral vocal cord of a patient with a unilateral vocal cord paralysis secondary to sacrifice of the recurrent laryngeal nerve during pneumonectomy for lung cancer. The FDG uptake of the non-paralyzed vocal cord was increased multiple-fold, placing it well within the range of malignancy. Use of unique, combined PET-CT imaging localized the high FDG uptake to the non-paralyzed vocal cord, and laryngoscopy confirmed no evidence of malignancy in the vocal cord. This case demonstrates that a benign cause of false-positive FDG-PET imaging may be encountered during evaluation of the extracranial head and neck for malignancy. We aim to alert the reader to this potential pitfall in the interpretation of FDG-PET imaging, which can be resolved with the use of combined PET-CT imaging and clinical correlation.