Pheochromocytomas: detection with 18F DOPA whole body PET--initial results

Radiology. 2002 Feb;222(2):507-12. doi: 10.1148/radiol.2222010622.


Purpose: To evaluate fluorine 18 ((18)F) dihydroxyphenylalanine (DOPA) whole-body positron emission tomography (PET) as a biochemical imaging approach for detection of pheochromocytomas.

Materials and methods: (18)F DOPA PET and magnetic resonance (MR) imaging were performed in 14 consecutive patients suspected of having pheochromocytomas (five sporadic, nine with von Hippel-Lindau disease); metaiodobenzylguanidine (MIBG) scintigraphy was performed in 12 of these patients. The individual imaging findings were assessed in consensus by specialists in nuclear medicine and radiologists blinded to the results of the other methods. The findings of the functional imaging methods were compared with those of MR imaging, the reference standard. Histologic verification could be obtained in eight patients with nine tumors.

Results: Seventeen pheochromocytomas (11 solitary, three bifocal; 14 adrenal, three extraadrenal) were detected with MR imaging. (18)F DOPA PET and MR imaging had concordant results in all 17 tumors. In contrast, MIBG scintigraphy had false-negative results in four patients with three adrenal tumors smaller than 2 cm and one extraadrenal tumor with a diameter of 3.6 cm. On the basis of these data, sensitivities of 100% for (18)F DOPA PET and of 71% for MIBG scintigraphy were calculated. Specificity was 100% for both procedures.

Conclusion: (18)F DOPA PET is highly sensitive and specific for detection of pheochromocytomas and has potential as the functional imaging method of the future.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adrenal Gland Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging*
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Dihydroxyphenylalanine / analogs & derivatives*
  • Female
  • Fluorine Radioisotopes*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pheochromocytoma / diagnostic imaging*
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Tomography, Emission-Computed*
  • Whole-Body Counting


  • Fluorine Radioisotopes
  • fluorodopa F 18
  • Dihydroxyphenylalanine