Imaging of prostate cancer local recurrences: why and how?

Eur Radiol. 2010 May;20(5):1254-66. doi: 10.1007/s00330-009-1647-4. Epub 2009 Nov 17.


Objective: Because prostate cancer local recurrences can be efficiently treated by salvage therapies, it becomes critical to detect them early.

Methods: The first alert is the rise of the prostate specific antigen (PSA) level after the post-treatment nadir, which can correspond to a distant recurrence, a local recurrence or both. This so-called biochemical failure (BF) is defined as PSA level > 0.2 ng/ml after radical prostatectomy (RP) and PSA level > nadir + 2 ng/ml after radiotherapy. There is no consensual definition of BF after cryotherapy, high-intensity focused ultrasound (HIFU) ablation or brachytherapy.

Results: Local recurrences after RP are treated by radiotherapy, those after radiotherapy by RP, cryotherapy, brachytherapy or HIFU ablation. Recurrences after cryotherapy or HIFU ablation can be treated by a second session or radiotherapy. Recurrences after brachytherapy are difficult to treat. In patients with BF, MRI can detect local recurrences, whatever the initial treatment was. Dynamic contrast-enhanced MRI seems particularly accurate. The role of spectroscopy remains controversial. Ultrasound-based techniques are less accurate, but this may change with the advent of ultrasonic contrast media.

Conclusion: These recent advances in imaging may improve the outcome of salvage therapies (by improving patient selection and treatment targeting) and should open the way to focal salvage treatments in the near future.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers / blood
  • Contrast Media
  • Diagnostic Imaging*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local / diagnosis*
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local / therapy*
  • Prostate-Specific Antigen / blood
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Salvage Therapy


  • Biomarkers
  • Contrast Media
  • Prostate-Specific Antigen