Added value of SPECT/CT for correlation of MIBG scintigraphy and diagnostic CT in neuroblastoma and pheochromocytoma

AJR Am J Roentgenol. 2008 Apr;190(4):1085-90. doi: 10.2214/AJR.07.2107.


Objective: In pheochromocytoma and neuroblastoma, pathologic findings on metaiodobenzylguanidine (MIBG) scintigraphy (planar and SPECT) and on diagnostic CT are sometimes difficult to correlate. Furthermore, CT reading may be impaired by anatomic distortion after surgery or irradiation and if contrast agent is not injected. The present study evaluates the impact of SPECT/CT fusion images on correlation and image analysis of both techniques.

Materials and methods: Eleven patients, three adults (age range, 27-64 years) with pheochromocytoma and eight children (age range, 16-72 months) with neuroblastoma, underwent 15 (123)I-MIBG scintigraphy (whole body and SPECT/CT) and diagnostic CT during follow-up after treatment, with a time interval of 2 to 30 days (mean, 12 days) between MIBG scintigraphy and diagnostic CT. The diagnostic CT scans were read twice: blindly and with knowledge of the SPECT/CT findings. The scintigraphic and anatomic data were subsequently compared and were verified by clinical outcome.

Results: Of 15 imaging studies, there were nine cases of discordance between SPECT/CT and diagnostic CT, whereas concordant findings of planar MIBG and diagnostic CT were observed in six studies. Overall, SPECT/CT provided additional information in eight of the 15 cases (53%) and in eight of nine discordant studies (89%). In one case of pheochromocytoma in which anatomy was distorted by previous surgery and contrast agent was not injected, SPECT/CT findings guided the diagnostic CT that had initially misinterpreted the right adrenal gland as the inferior vena cava. In three of 11 studies performed for neuroblastoma, SPECT/CT facilitated the diagnostic CT reading: in one study, a small paravertebral thickening was overlooked at blind CT reading and in another case, SPECT/CT localized and characterized a soft-tissue mass medial to the iliac bone, which was missed on diagnostic CT in an area of difficult differential anatomy (bowel loops and eventual involved lymph nodes). In the third case, SPECT/CT directed the diagnostic CT to the MIBG abnormality after multiple surgical procedures. In these four cases, MIBG SPECT/CT allowed for localization of the pathologic site that was difficult to visualize on diagnostic CT. In four additional neuroblastoma studies in which a residual mass was present on diagnostic CT, planar MIBG scintigraphy was negative. SPECT/CT, focused on the area of the diagnostic CT abnormality, showed no focal MIBG uptake, thus increasing the diagnostic certainty of remission.

Conclusion: In cases of equivocal diagnostic CT, SPECT/CT bridges the gap between MIBG scintigraphy and diagnostic CT, with guidance of the diagnostic CT and characterization of its findings. In this small series, MIBG SPECT/CT increased the diagnostic certainty in 89% of discordant studies.

MeSH terms

  • 3-Iodobenzylguanidine
  • Adrenal Gland Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging*
  • Adult
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neuroblastoma / diagnostic imaging*
  • Pheochromocytoma / diagnostic imaging*
  • Radiopharmaceuticals
  • Tomography, Emission-Computed, Single-Photon*
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed*


  • Radiopharmaceuticals
  • 3-Iodobenzylguanidine