An introduction to PET-CT imaging

Radiographics. 2004 Mar-Apr;24(2):523-43. doi: 10.1148/rg.242025724.


Cancer is one of the leading causes of morbidity and mortality in developed countries such as the United States. Complex clinical decisions about treatment of oncologic patients are largely guided by imaging findings, among other factors. Most radiologic procedures map the anatomy and morphology of tumors with little or no information about their metabolism. Positron emission tomography (PET) performed with 2-[fluorine-18]fluoro-2-deoxy-D-glucose (FDG) has proved valuable in providing important tumor-related qualitative and quantitative metabolic information that is critical to diagnosis and follow-up. PET-computed tomography (CT) is a unique combination of the cross-sectional anatomic information provided by CT and the metabolic information provided by PET, which are acquired during a single examination and fused. FDG PET-CT offers several advantages over PET alone; the most important is the ability to accurately localize increased FDG activity to specific normal or abnormal anatomic locations, which may be difficult or even impossible with PET alone. Understanding the principles of FDG PET-CT and the optimal scanning techniques and recognizing the potential pitfalls and limitations are important for advantageous use of this imaging modality.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Equipment Design
  • Female
  • Fluorodeoxyglucose F18* / pharmacokinetics
  • Humans
  • Image Interpretation, Computer-Assisted
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging*
  • Radiopharmaceuticals* / pharmacokinetics
  • Tissue Distribution
  • Tomography, Emission-Computed / instrumentation
  • Tomography, Emission-Computed / methods*
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed / instrumentation
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed / methods*


  • Radiopharmaceuticals
  • Fluorodeoxyglucose F18