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, 47 (4), 408-424

Clinical Value of FDG-PET/CT for the Evaluation of Rheumatic Diseases: Rheumatoid Arthritis, Polymyalgia Rheumatica, and Relapsing Polychondritis


Clinical Value of FDG-PET/CT for the Evaluation of Rheumatic Diseases: Rheumatoid Arthritis, Polymyalgia Rheumatica, and Relapsing Polychondritis

Kazuo Kubota et al. Semin Nucl Med.


FDG is a tracer for visualizing glucose metabolism. PET/CT using FDG is widely used for the diagnosis of cancer, because glycolysis is elevated in cancer cells. Similarly, active inflammatory tissue also exhibits elevated glucose metabolism because of glycolysis in activated macrophages and proliferating fibroblasts. Elevated FDG uptake by active inflammatory tissues, such as those affected by arthritis, vasculitis, lymphadenitis, and chondritis, has enabled the diagnosis of inflammatory diseases using FDG-PET/CT. Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a systemic, chronic inflammation of the joints resulting in synovitis. Several clinical studies of RA have demonstrated that FDG uptake in affected joints reflects the disease activity of RA, with strong correlations between FDG uptake and various clinical parameters having been noted. Furthermore, the use of FDG-PET for the sensitive detection and early monitoring of the response to RA therapy has been reported. RA is sometimes associated with subclinical vasculitis, which is related to systemic inflammation. FDG-PET/CT can be used to evaluate subclinical vasculitis in the aorta or carotid artery. Polymyalgia rheumatica (PMR) is an autoimmune musculoskeletal disease of unknown etiology characterized by pain and stiffness in the shoulder, neck, and pelvic girdle, but not in the small finger joints in the hands, together with fever, fatigue, and weight loss. There is no specific test for PMR, and its diagnosis is based on clinical diagnostic criteria and the exclusion of other diseases with similar symptoms. However, FDG-PET/CT reveals a characteristic FDG uptake by the bursitis in ischial tuberosity, greater trochanter, lumbar or cervical spinous process, and scapulohumeral joint. A combination of FDG-PET/CT findings showed a high diagnostic value for PMR in a differential diagnosis from RA. FDG-PET/CT is also very useful for evaluating large vessel vasculitis, which is often associated with PMR. Relapsing polychondritis is a rare multisystem disease of unknown etiology involving cartilaginous and proteoglycan-rich structures. Its rarity and diversity of symptoms often result in a delayed diagnosis. FDG-PET/CT reveals unique FDG uptake findings for chondritis in the auricular, nasal, trachea, bronchial tree, and costal cartilage and in the cartilage of joints. Thus, the spread of knowledge regarding these very specific FDG-PET/CT findings could promote the early diagnosis and improved disease control of relapsing polychondritis.

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