Sporadic Primary Pheochromocytoma: A Prospective Intraindividual Comparison of Six Imaging Tests (CT, MRI, and PET/CT Using 68Ga-DOTATATE, FDG, 18F-FDOPA, and 18F-FDA)

AJR Am J Roentgenol. 2022 Feb;218(2):342-350. doi: 10.2214/AJR.21.26071. Epub 2021 Aug 25.


BACKGROUND. Recent professional society guidelines for radionuclide imaging of sporadic pheochromocytoma (PHEO) recommend 18F-fluorodihydroxyphenylala-nine (18F-FDOPA) as the radiotracer of choice, deeming 68Ga-DOTATATE and FDG to be second- and third-line agents, respectively. An additional agent, 18F-fluorodopamine (18F-FDA), remains experimental for PHEO detection. A paucity of research has performed head-to-head comparison among these agents. OBJECTIVE. The purpose of this study was to perform an intraindividual comparison of 68Ga-DOTATATE PET/CT, FDG PET/CT, 18F-FDOPA PET/CT, 18F-FDA PET/CT, CT, and MRI in visualization of sporadic primary PHEO. METHODS. This prospective study enrolled patients referred with clinical suspicion for sporadic PHEO. Patients were scheduled for 68Ga-DOTATATE PET/CT, FDG PET/CT, 18F-FDOPA PET/CT, 18F-FDA PET/CT, whole-body staging CT (portal venous phase), and MRI within a 3-month period. PET/CT examinations were reviewed by two nuclear medicine physicians, and CT and MRI were reviewed by two radiologists; differences were resolved by consensus. Readers scored lesions in terms of confidence in diagnosis of PHEO (1-5 scale; 4-5 considered positive for PHEO). Lesion-to-liver SUVmax was computed using both readers' measurements. Interreader agreement was assessed using intraclass correlation coefficients (ICCs) for SUVmax. Analysis included only patients with histologically confirmed PHEO on resection. RESULTS. The analysis included 14 patients (eight women, six men; mean age, 52.4 ± 16.8 [SD] years) with PHEO. Both 68Ga-DOTATATE PET/CT and FDG PET/CT were completed in all 14 patients, 18F-FDOPA PET/CT in 11, 18F-FDA PET/CT in 7, CT in 12, and MRI in 12. Mean conspicuity score for PHEO was 5.0 ± 0.0 for 18F-FDOPA PET/CT, 4.7 ± 0.5 for MRI, 4.6 ± 0.8 for 18F-FDA PET/CT, 4.4 ± 1.0 for 68Ga-DOTATATE PET/CT, 4.3 ± 1.0 for CT, and 4.1 ± 1.5 for FDG PET/CT. The positivity rate for PHEO was 100.0% (11/11) for 18F-FDOPA PET/CT, 100.0% (12/12) for MRI, 85.7% (6/7) for 18F-FDA PET/CT, 78.6% (11/14) for FDG PET/CT, 78.6% (11/14) for 68Ga-DOTATATE PET/CT, and 66.7% (8/12) for CT. Lesion-to-liver SUVmax was 10.5 for 18F-FDOPA versus 3.0-4.2 for the other tracers. Interreader agreement across modalities ranged from 85.7% to 100.0% for lesion positivity with ICCs of 0.55-1.00 for SUVmax measurements. CONCLUSION. Findings from this small intraindividual comparative study support 18F-FDOPA PET/CT as a preferred first-line imaging modality in evaluation of sporadic PHEO. CLINICAL IMPACT. This study provides data supporting current guidelines for imaging evaluation of suspected PHEO. TRIAL REGISTRATION. ClinicalTrials.gov NCT00004847.

Keywords: 18F-FDA; 18F-FDG; 18F-FDOPA; 68Ga-DOTATATE; pheochromocytoma.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adrenal Gland Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging*
  • Adrenal Glands / diagnostic imaging
  • Female
  • Fluorodeoxyglucose F18*
  • Gallium Radioisotopes*
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Octreotide / analogs & derivatives
  • Organometallic Compounds
  • Pheochromocytoma / diagnostic imaging*
  • Positron Emission Tomography Computed Tomography / methods*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Radiopharmaceuticals*
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed / methods


  • Gallium Radioisotopes
  • Organometallic Compounds
  • Radiopharmaceuticals
  • Fluorodeoxyglucose F18
  • Octreotide

Associated data

  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT00004847