Background: To assess the diagnostic usefulness and clinical impact of positron emission tomography with [F-18]fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG PET) on the management of patients with known or suspected pancreatic carcinoma.
Methods: Attenuation-corrected FDG PET was performed in 20 patients (12 male, eight female) with pancreatic carcinoma at the time of initial diagnosis (n = 7), for tumor surveillance after Whipple surgery (n = 11), and for reevaluation after chemoradiation therapy (n = 2). Visual analysis of PET images were correlated with the results of abdominal computed tomography (CT) and carbohydrate antigen (CA) 19-9 serum tumor marker level that were obtained within 1 month of the PET study. Diagnostic validation was by histology in nine patients and by clinical or radiologic follow-up (5-48 months) in 11 patients. Changes in therapeutic management that were prompted by PET were tabulated.
Results: PET was concordant with the findings of abdominal CT in 14 patients (13 true positive, 1 true negative). PET detected clinically unsuspected lung lesions, confirmed subsequently by a chest CT, in one of these 14 patients. PET was discordant with CT in six patients. PET detected tumor recurrence in three patients in this group (15% of total) with nondiagnostic CT findings and elevated CA 19-9 serology. In two of these three patients, chemotherapy with gemcitabine was initiated based on PET localization of disease. Tumor was confirmed in the remaining one of the three patients at autopsy shortly after the PET study. FDG localization in a displaced loop of bowel resulted in an apparent false-positive hepatic lesion in one of six patients in the discordant group. PET underestimated the extent of metastatic disease in the remaining two of six patients due to hyperglycemia.
Conclusion: In patients with suspected pancreatic carcinoma at the time of initial presentation, PET is complementary to abdominal CT and allows detection of unsuspected distant metastases. In patients with suspected recurrent pancreatic carcinoma, based on elevated or rising CA 19-9 serology, PET can localize the disease when abdominal CT is nondiagnostic as a result of posttherapy anatomic alteration. Imaging evaluation with PET may impact the clinical management of patients with pancreatic carcinoma.