False-positive FDG PET uptake--the role of PET/CT

Eur Radiol. 2006 May;16(5):1054-65. doi: 10.1007/s00330-005-0088-y. Epub 2005 Dec 17.


Positron emission tomography (PET) is a powerful molecular imaging technique for the human body-imaging applications currently available. As altered glucose metabolism is characteristic for many malignancies, FDG-PET is mostly used in oncology for staging and therapy control. Although PET is a sensitive tool for detecting malignancy, FDG uptake is not tumor specific. It can also be seen in healthy tissue or in benign disease as inflammation or posttraumatic repair and could be mistaken for cancer. The experienced nuclear medicine physician mostly manages to differentiate malignant from non-malignant FDG uptake, but some findings may remain ambiguous. In these cases, the difficulties in differentiating physiologic variants or benign causes of FDG uptake from tumor tissue can often be overcome by combined PET and CT (PET/CT) as anatomic information is added to the metabolic data. Thus, PET/CT improves the diagnostic accuracy compared to PET alone and helps to avoid unnecessary surgery/therapy. However, PET/CT involves other sources of artifacts that may occur when using CT for attenuation correction of PET or by patient motion caused by respiration or bowel movements.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Artifacts*
  • Contrast Media / metabolism
  • False Positive Reactions
  • Fluorodeoxyglucose F18 / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Image Interpretation, Computer-Assisted
  • Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging
  • Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Positron-Emission Tomography*
  • Radiopharmaceuticals / metabolism*
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed*


  • Contrast Media
  • Radiopharmaceuticals
  • Fluorodeoxyglucose F18