F-18 FDG PET/CT for detection of malignant involvement of peripheral nerves: case series and literature review

Clin Nucl Med. 2011 Feb;36(2):96-100. doi: 10.1097/RLU.0b013e318203bb0e.


Purpose: To evaluate the role of positron emission tomography plus computed tomography (PET/CT) scans in detecting malignant involvement of the peripheral nerves (PNs).

Material and methods: We retrospectively reviewed medical records of all PET/CT studies performed at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center between 2003 and 2009, and selected patients in whom F-18 fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG) PET/CT findings were suspicious for malignant involvement of the PNs. We identified 26 cases of suspected tumorous involvement of the PNs that was subsequently confirmed by either biopsy or clinical follow-up. We evaluated the value of PET/CT in diagnosing malignant involvement of the PNs.

Results: Of the 26 patients, 12 had lymphoma, 10 had breast cancer, 2 had lung cancer, 1 had colon cancer, and 1 had melanoma. In 21 patients, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) was performed, either for follow-up of the PET/CT finding or to find an explanation for symptoms. MRI confirmed the presence of disease in only 9 patients, was interpreted as normal in 7 patients, and was inconclusive in 5 patients. FDG PET/CT was able to differentiate an active tumor from post-treatment fibrosis and could assess response to therapy with a high degree of confidence.

Conclusions: Our results indicate that FDG PET/CT is helpful in diagnosing malignant involvement of the PNs, especially when findings from anatomic imaging (MRI or CT) are negative. In cases of known treated malignancy involving the PNs, follow-up by PET/CT has the advantage of high sensitivity for local recurrence.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Breast Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging
  • Female
  • Fluorodeoxyglucose F18*
  • Humans
  • Lymphoma / diagnostic imaging
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Peripheral Nervous System Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging*
  • Positron-Emission Tomography*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed*
  • Young Adult


  • Fluorodeoxyglucose F18