FDG-PET in staging lung cancer: how does it change the algorithm?

Lung Cancer. 2004 May;44(2):175-81. doi: 10.1016/j.lungcan.2003.11.007.


Background: In patients with lung cancer, positron emission tomography (PET) using fluor-18-fluorodesoxyglucose (FDG) may be used both to detect extrathoracic metastases (ETM) and for mediastinal lymph node staging (MLS), potentially reducing the need for mediastinoscopy. We assessed the added value of FDG-PET in detecting ETM and focused on the reliability of FDG-PET and mediastinoscopy for MLS.

Patients and methods: In 72 consecutive patients with non-small cell lung cancer, the impact of adding FDG-PET to full conventional clinical staging was prospectively analyzed. The predictive value of FDG-PET findings and tumor location for pathologic mediastinal lymph node status were assessed in a logistic regression analysis.

Results: Unexpected extrathoracic metastases were detected by FDG-PET in 15% of patients. In MLS overall negative and positive predictive values were 71 and 83% for FDG-PET, and 92 and 100% for mediastinoscopy. However, the negative predictive value of FDG-PET was only 17% in case of FDG-PET positive N1 nodes and/or a centrally located primary tumor, whereas it was 96% in case of FDG-PET negative N1 nodes and a non-centrally located primary tumor.

Conclusion: By incorporating FDG-PET in clinical staging, 15% of patients with lung cancer are upstaged due to unexpected extrathoracic metastases. In case of a negative mediastinal FDG-PET, mediastinoscopy can only be omitted in the presence of a non-centrally located primary tumor and without FDG-PET positive N1 nodes.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Algorithms*
  • Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung / diagnostic imaging*
  • Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung / pathology
  • False Negative Reactions
  • Female
  • Fluorodeoxyglucose F18*
  • Humans
  • Lung Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging*
  • Lung Neoplasms / pathology
  • Lymphatic Metastasis / diagnostic imaging*
  • Male
  • Mediastinoscopy
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasm Staging / methods*
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Prospective Studies
  • Radiopharmaceuticals*
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Tomography, Emission-Computed*


  • Radiopharmaceuticals
  • Fluorodeoxyglucose F18