Objective: To prospectively compare the accuracy of combined positron emission tomography/computed tomography using F-fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG-PET/CT), multidetector row computed tomography (MDCT), and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) in the evaluation of patients with suspected pancreatic malignancy.
Summary background data: FDG-PET/CT imaging is increasingly used for staging of pancreatic cancer. Preliminary data suggest a significant influence of FDG-PET/CT on treatment planning, although its role is still evolving.
Methods: Thirty-eight consecutive patients with suspicion of pancreatic malignancy were enrolled. Patients underwent a protocol including FDG-PET/CT, MDCT, and MRI combined with magnetic resonance cholangiopancreatography, all of which were blindly evaluated. The findings were confirmed macroscopically at operation and/or by histopathologic analysis (n = 29) or follow-up (n = 9). Results of TNM classification of different imaging methods were compared with clinical TNM classification.
Results: Pancreatic adenocarcinoma was diagnosed in 17 patients, neuroendocrine tumor in 3, mass-forming pancreatitis in 4, cystic lesion in 6, and fibrosis in 2. Six patients had a finding of a normal pancreas. The diagnostic accuracy of FDG-PET/CT for pancreatic malignancy was 89%, compared with 76% and 79% for MDCT and MRI, respectively. In the differential diagnosis of suspected malignant biliary stricture at endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreaticography (n = 21), FDG-PET/CT had a positive predictive value of 92%. In 17 patients with advanced pancreatic adenocarcinoma, FDG-PET/CT had a sensitivity of 30% for N- and 88% for M-staging. Both MDCT and MRI had sensitivities of 30% for N- and 38% for M-staging. Furthermore, the clinical management of 10 patients (26%) was altered after FDG-PET/CT.
Conclusion: FDG-PET/CT was more sensitive than conventional imaging in the diagnosis of both primary pancreatic adenocarcinoma and associated distant metastases. In contrast, the sensitivity of FDG-PET/CT was poor in detecting local lymph node metastasis, which would have been important for an assessment of resectability. We recommend the use of FDG-PET/CT in the evaluation of diagnostically challenging cases, especially in patients with biliary strictures without evidence of malignancy in conventional imaging.