Altered biodistribution on FDG-PET with emphasis on brown fat and insulin effect

Semin Nucl Med. 2010 Jul;40(4):283-93. doi: 10.1053/j.semnuclmed.2010.02.001.


(18)F-fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG) is the radiotracer used in the vast majority of positron emission tomography (PET) cancer studies. FDG is a powerful radiotracer that provides valuable data in many cancer types. Normal FDG biodistribution is easily identified. In the PET-only era, physiological uptake provided important anatomical landmarks. However, the normal biodistribution of FDG is often variable and can be altered by intrinsic or iatrogenic factors. Recognizing these patterns of altered biodistribution is important for optimal FDG-PET interpretation. Altered FDG uptake in muscles, brown adipose tissue, bone marrow, the urinary tract, and the bowel is demonstrated in a significant proportion of patients, which can hide underlying malignant foci or mimic malignant lesions. The introduction of PET/computed tomography revolutionized PET imaging, bringing much-needed anatomical information. This modality allowed better characterization of some types of uptake, particularly brown adipose tissue FDG uptake. Different approaches to minimize interference from altered FDG biodistribution should be considered when performing PET scans. Otherwise, careful review and correlation of metabolic (FDG-PET) and anatomical (computed tomography) data should be performed to accurately characterize the foci of increased FDG uptake.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue, Brown / diagnostic imaging
  • Adipose Tissue, Brown / drug effects*
  • Adipose Tissue, Brown / metabolism*
  • Artifacts*
  • Fluorodeoxyglucose F18 / pharmacokinetics*
  • Humans
  • Insulin / administration & dosage*
  • Positron-Emission Tomography / methods*
  • Radiopharmaceuticals / pharmacokinetics
  • Tissue Distribution / drug effects


  • Insulin
  • Radiopharmaceuticals
  • Fluorodeoxyglucose F18