[11C]metomidate positron emission tomography of adrenocortical tumors in correlation with histopathological findings

J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2006 Apr;91(4):1410-4. doi: 10.1210/jc.2005-2273. Epub 2006 Jan 10.


Context: Adrenal incidentalomas are common findings necessitating extensive laboratory work-up and repetitive radiological examinations. Positron emission tomography (PET) using (11)C-labeled metomidate (MTO) has previously been described as a tool for specific adrenocortical imaging.

Objective: We evaluated 212 MTO-PET examinations in 173 patients to identify its role in the management of adrenal tumors.

Design: Seventy-five histopathological examinations from 73 patients were retrospectively analyzed.

Setting: All examinations were performed at a referral center.

Patients: Patients who were operated or biopsied due to adrenal tumors had histopathological diagnoses of adrenocortical adenoma (n = 26), adrenocortical cancer (ACC; n = 13), adrenocortical hyperplasia (n = 8), pheochromocytoma (n = 6), metastasis (n = 3), and tumors of nonadrenal origin (n = 19).

Main outcome measures: The main outcome measures were statistical analyses and findings while scrutinizing images. The hypothesis that MTO-PET is of value in the management of adrenal tumors, especially incidentaloma, was stated before data collection.

Results: Sensitivity was 0.89 and specificity was 0.96 for MTO-PET in proving adrenocortical origin of the lesions. Pheochromocytomas, metastases to the adrenal gland, and nonadrenal masses were all MTO negative. PET measurements using standardized uptake values (SUV) in pathological adrenocortical tissue could differentiate lesions larger than 1-1.5 cm from normal adrenocortical tissue. SUV was higher in aldosterone-hypersecreting adenomas, and the SUV ratio between the tumor and the contralateral gland was significantly higher in all hormonally hypersecreting adenomas as well as in ACC.

Conclusion: MTO-PET is a specific and sensitive method for diagnosing adrenocortical tumors. MTO-PET is useful in the imaging work-up of adrenal incidentalomas and may be beneficial for the examination of patients with primary aldosteronism or ACC.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adrenal Cortex Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging*
  • Adrenal Cortex Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Aged
  • Antineoplastic Agents*
  • Data Interpretation, Statistical
  • Ethics
  • Etomidate / analogs & derivatives*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Positron-Emission Tomography
  • Radiopharmaceuticals


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Radiopharmaceuticals
  • metomidate
  • Etomidate