Positron Emission Tomography and Bone Metastases

Semin Nucl Med. 2005 Apr;35(2):135-42. doi: 10.1053/j.semnuclmed.2004.11.005.


The use of 2-[18F]fluoro-2-deoxy-D-glucose positron emission tomography (FDG-PET) in the evaluation and management of patients with malignancy continues to increase. However, its role in the identification of bone metastases is far from clear. FDG has the advantage of demonstrating all metastatic sites, and in the skeleton it is assumed that its uptake is directly into tumor cells. It is probable that for breast and lung carcinoma, FDG-PET has similar sensitivity, although poorer specificity, when compared with the isotope bone scan, although there is conflicting evidence, with several articles suggesting that it is less sensitive than conventional imaging in breast cancer. There is convincing evidence that for prostate cancer, FDG-PET is less sensitive than the bone scan and this may be tumor specific. There is very little data relating to lymphoma, but FDG-PET seems to perform better than the bone scan. There is an increasing body of evidence relating to the valuable role of FDG-PET in myeloma, where it is clearly better than the bone scan, presumably because FDG is identifying marrow-based disease at an early stage. There are, however, several other important variables that should be considered. The morphology of the metastasis itself appears to be relevant. At least in breast cancer, different patterns of FDG uptake have been shown in sclerotic, lytic, or lesions with a mixed pattern, Furthermore, the precise localization of a metastasis in the skeleton may be important with regard to the extent of the metabolic response induced. Previous treatment is highly relevant and it has been found that although the majority of untreated bone metastases are positive on PET scans and have a lytic pattern on computed tomography (CT), after treatment, incongruent CT-positive/PET-negative lesions are significantly more prevalent and generally are blastic, which presumably reflects a direct effect of treatment. Finally, the aggressiveness of the tumor itself may be relevant. The most important question, however, is irrespective of whether a lesion is seen on x-ray, CT, or bone scan and irrespective of lytic of blastic morphology: if the FDG-PET study is negative, what is the clinical relevance of that lesion?

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Bone Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Bone Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging*
  • Bone Neoplasms / secondary*
  • Breast Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Breast Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging*
  • Female
  • Fluorodeoxyglucose F18*
  • Humans
  • Lung Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Lung Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging*
  • Lung Neoplasms / secondary
  • Male
  • Positron-Emission Tomography / methods*
  • Positron-Emission Tomography / trends
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians' / trends
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging*
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / secondary
  • Radiopharmaceuticals
  • Subtraction Technique
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed / methods*


  • Radiopharmaceuticals
  • Fluorodeoxyglucose F18