The Role of 18-Fluorodeoxyglucose Positron Emission Tomography/Computed Tomography (FDG-PET/CT) in Management of Nocardiosis: A Retrospective Study and Review of the Literature

Infect Dis Ther. 2021 Jul 20. doi: 10.1007/s40121-021-00495-7. Online ahead of print.


Introduction: 18-Fluorodeoxyglucose positron emission tomography/computed tomography (FDG-PET/CT) is a well-established tool for managing metastatic infections. Nocardiosis, a primarily pulmonary infection, disseminates at high rates. Routine imaging includes chest CT and brain imaging. We examined the use of FDG-PET/CT in nocardiosis and assessed its contribution to diagnosis and management.

Methods: A retrospective study in two tertiary medical centers during 2011-2020. Individuals with nocardiosis for whom FDG-PET/CT was implemented for any reason were included and their medical records were reviewed. A board-certified nuclear medicine physician independently reviewed all scans. Additionally, a systematic review was conducted according to the PRISMA guidelines, to extract data from publications reporting FDG-PET/CT use for the management of nocardiosis.

Results: FDG-PET/CT contributed to the management of all seven patients who met inclusion criteria. It assisted in ruling out an underlying malignancy (29%, 2/7); establishing a wide infection extent (57%, 4/7); and affecting decisions regarding treatment (57%, 4/7), including drug regimen, oral step-down, and duration of therapy. We identified 20 published case reports on this topic. In 80% (16/20), FDG-PET/CT contributed to the management of nocardiosis similar to our study. In addition, in most of the literature cases, FDG-PET/CT guided the diagnostic biopsy.

Conclusion: FDG-PET/CT is valuable in the diagnosis and management of individuals with nocardiosis. The contribution of incorporating FDG-PET/CT to the management of individuals with nocardiosis and its role in monitoring treatment response and shortening treatment duration should be evaluated in prospective studies.

Keywords: Imaging; Nocardia infections; Opportunistic infections.