Comparison of whole-body 18F-FDG PET, 99mTc-MIBI SPET, and post-therapeutic 131I-Na scintigraphy in the detection of metastatic thyroid cancer

Eur J Nucl Med Mol Imaging. 2004 Apr;31(4):491-8. doi: 10.1007/s00259-003-1403-y. Epub 2003 Dec 10.


The usefulness of fluorine-18 fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG) positron emission tomography (PET) in differentiated thyroid cancer (DTC) has been demonstrated by many investigators, but in only a small number of studies have FDG-PET images been compared with those obtained using other non-iodine tumour-seeking radiopharmaceuticals. In most of the studies, planar imaging was performed for comparison using thallium-201 chloride or technetium-99m 2-methoxyisobutylisonitrile ((99m)Tc-MIBI). Furthermore, FDG-PET studies were not always performed in the hypothyroid state with increased levels of thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH), which are known to increase FDG uptake by DTC. The aim of this study was to compare the ability of FDG-PET to detect metastatic DTC with that of (99m)Tc-MIBI whole-body single-photon emission tomography (SPET) and post-therapeutic iodine-131 scintigraphy, evaluated under TSH stimulation. Nineteen patients (8 men, 11 women; age range, 38-72 years, mean 60 years; 17 thyroidectomised and 2 inoperable patients following (131)I ablation of the remaining thyroid tissue; 16 papillary and 3 follicular carcinomas) with metastatic DTC underwent FDG-PET whole-body scan (WBS) and (99m)Tc-MIBI SPET WBS at an interval of less than 1 week, followed by (131)I therapy. The SPET images were reconstructed using the maximum likelihood expectation maximisation (ML-EM) method. All patients were hypothyroid at the time of each scan. (131)I WBS was performed 3-5 days after oral administration of the therapeutic dose. A total of 32 lesions [10 lymph node (LN), 15 lung, 6 bone, 1 muscle] were diagnosed as metastases, as confirmed by histopathology and/or other imaging modalities (X-ray, US, CT, MRI, bone, (201)Tl and (131)I scans). FDG-PET, (99m)Tc-MIBI SPET and post-therapeutic (131)I scintigraphy respectively revealed a total of 26 (81.3%), 20 (62.5%) and 22 (68.8%) lesions. These techniques respectively demonstrated nine (90.0%), eight (80.0%) and six (60.0%) LN metastases, and eleven (73.3%), seven (46.7%) and ten (66.7%) lung metastases. They each demonstrated five of the six bone metastases (83.3%). FDG-PET and (99m)Tc-MIBI SPET were positive in 17 (78.3%) and 14 (63.6%) of the 22 (131)I-positive lesions, respectively, and also in nine (90.0%) and six (60.0%) of the ten (131)I-negative lesions, respectively. Three of the five (131)I-positive and FDG-PET-negative lesions were miliary type lung metastases with a maximal nodular diameter of less than 10 mm. Comparison of FDG-PET with (99m)Tc-MIBI SPET revealed concordant results in 24 lesions, and discordant results in eight lesions (seven with positive FDG-PET alone and one with positive (99m)Tc-MIBI SPET alone).

In conclusion: (a) even using whole-body SPET, FDG PET is superior to (99m)Tc-MIBI in terms of ability to detect metastases of DTC; (b) the higher sensitivity of FDG-PET compared with the previous studies could partly be due to increased serum TSH.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study
  • Controlled Clinical Trial
  • Validation Study

MeSH terms

  • Adenocarcinoma, Follicular / diagnostic imaging*
  • Adenocarcinoma, Follicular / secondary
  • Adenocarcinoma, Follicular / therapy
  • Adenocarcinoma, Papillary / diagnostic imaging*
  • Adenocarcinoma, Papillary / secondary
  • Adenocarcinoma, Papillary / therapy
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Female
  • Fluorodeoxyglucose F18*
  • Humans
  • Iodine Radioisotopes
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Positron-Emission Tomography / methods
  • Prognosis
  • Radiopharmaceuticals
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Sodium*
  • Technetium Tc 99m Sestamibi*
  • Thyroid Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging*
  • Thyroid Neoplasms / therapy
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Whole-Body Counting / methods


  • Iodine Radioisotopes
  • Radiopharmaceuticals
  • Fluorodeoxyglucose F18
  • Technetium Tc 99m Sestamibi
  • Sodium