Purpose: Specific recommendations on screening modalities for paraganglioma (PGL) and phaeochromocytoma (PCC) in asymptomatic SDHx mutation carriers (relatives) are still lacking. We evaluated the added value of (18)F-FDG PET/CT in comparison with morphological imaging at initial diagnosis and 1 year of follow-up in this population.
Methods: The study included 30 consecutive relatives with a proven SDHx mutation who were investigated by (18)F-FDG PET/CT, gadolinium-enhanced magnetic resonance angiography of the head and neck, thoracic/abdominal/pelvic (TAP) contrast-enhanced CT and/or TAP MRI. (123)I-MIBG scintigraphy was performed in 20 subjects and somatostatin receptor scintigraphy (SRS) in 20 subjects. The gold standard was based on pathology or a composite endpoint as defined by any other positive imaging method and persistent tumour on follow-up. Images were considered as false-positive when the lesions were not detected by another imaging method or not confirmed at 1 year.
Results: At initial work-up, an imaging abnormality was found in eight subjects (27%). The final diagnosis was true-positive in five subjects (two with abdominal PGL, one with PCC and two with neck PGL) and false-positives in the other three subjects (detected with (18)F-FDG PET/CT in two and TAP MRI in one). At 1 year, an imaging abnormality was found in three subjects of which one was an 8-mm carotid body PGL in a patient with SDHD mutaion and two were considered false-positive. The tumour detection rate was 100% for (18)F-FDG PET/CT and conventional imaging, 80% for SRS and 60% for (123)I-MIBG scintigraphy. Overall, disease was detected in 4% of the subjects at the 1-year follow-up.
Conclusion: (18)F-FDG PET/CT demonstrated excellent sensitivity but intermediate specificity justifying combined modality imaging in these patients. Given the slow progression of the disease, if (18)F-FDG PET/CT and MRI are normal at baseline, the second imaging work-up should be delayed and an examination that does not expose the patient to radiation should be used.