Diagnostic accuracy and prognostic value of 18F-FDG PET in Hürthle cell thyroid cancer patients

J Nucl Med. 2006 Aug;47(8):1260-6.


Hürthle cell carcinoma is an uncommon and occasionally aggressive differentiated thyroid cancer associated with increased mortality compared with other differentiated thyroid malignancies. Because it generally has lower iodine avidity, 18F-FDG PET has been suggested as a more accurate imaging modality. However, there is limited information with regard to the true diagnostic accuracy and prognostic value of 18F-FDG PET in this disease.

Methods: All patients with Hürthle cell thyroid cancer who underwent their first 18F-FDG PET scan between May 1996 and February 2003 were identified retrospectively. 18F-FDG PET scans were reviewed and compared with all available imaging studies, including CT, ultrasound, and radioiodine scintigraphy (RIS). Abnormal 18F-FDG uptake was assessed visually and by measuring the maximum standardized uptake value (SUVmax) of the most intense lesion. Clinical follow-up for at least 1 y or until death was required for inclusion.

Results: Forty-four patients met inclusion criteria. The median follow-up was 2.9 y. There were 24 positive and 20 negative 18F-FDG PET scans with 1 false-positive and 1 false-negative study, resulting in a diagnostic sensitivity of 95.8% and a specificity of 95%. In 5 of 11 patients who had both positive CT and 18F-FDG PET findings, 18F-FDG PET revealed additional sites of disease. Furthermore, 18F-FDG PET correctly classified as negative 3 patients with false-positive CT findings. In 3 of 6 patients with positive RIS, 18F-FDG PET revealed additional sites of metastatic disease. Ten patients with positive 18F-FDG PET had negative RIS. Only 1 patient with negative 18F-FDG PET had positive RIS. The SUVmax also provided prognostic information: In a stepwise fashion, each increase in intensity by SUVmax unit was associated with a 6% increase in mortality (P < 0.001). The 5-y overall survival in patients with SUVmax < 10 was 92%; it declined to 64% in those with SUVmax > 10 (P < 0.01).

Conclusion: 18F-FDG PET has excellent diagnostic accuracy in Hürthle cell thyroid cancer patients, improving on CT and RIS. Intense 18F-FDG uptake in lesions is an indicator of a poor prognosis. Our data suggest that all patients with Hürthle cell thyroid cancer should undergo 18F-FDG PET as part of their initial postoperative staging and periodically to screen for occult recurrence, particularly in patients with elevated serum thyroglobulin.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adenoma, Oxyphilic / diagnosis*
  • Adenoma, Oxyphilic / diagnostic imaging*
  • Adenoma, Oxyphilic / pathology
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Female
  • Fluorodeoxyglucose F18*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Positron-Emission Tomography / methods*
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Prognosis
  • Thyroglobulin / blood
  • Thyroid Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Thyroid Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging*
  • Thyroid Neoplasms / pathology
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed / methods


  • Fluorodeoxyglucose F18
  • Thyroglobulin