Background: Colorectal cancer (CRC) is a leading cause of death, and necessitates a conjointly performed staging. Until now, a multi-step-examination including optical colonoscopy, cross-sectional and functional imaging is recommended. However, a single examination for whole-body staging with a dedicated CRC staging protocol is desirable. Thus, we developed and evaluated a combined whole-body PET/CT-colonography protocol for dedicated CRC staging in routine clinical use.
Methods: We integrated CT-colonography into a whole-body PET/CT protocol to achieve a specific "all-in-one" examination for patients suspected of having CRC. After oral and rectal bowel distension, PET/CT-colonography has been performed in 55 patients. All patients had optical colonoscopy one day before PET/CT. PET/CT data sets were evaluated concerning detection and evaluation of colorectal tumour sites, lymph nodes and distant metastases; these results were compared to the results of CT-colonography alone. Surgical resection and/or biopsy served as standards of reference in all patients.
Results: All examinations were fully diagnostic and well tolerated by the patients. PET/CT-colonography showed highly accurate results for overall TNM-evaluation and was significantly more accurate than CT-colonography alone.
Conclusions: Staging patients with whole-body PET/CT-colonography is technically feasible and accurate. Patients with incomplete colonoscopy or potential synchronous bowel lesions might benefit from this approach.