Quantitative indexes based on regions of interest ratios from preoperative thallium-201 SPECT and F-fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG)-positron emission tomography (PET) scans were compared for their ability to predict the histological grade of cerebral gliomas. Of the five different ratios used to determine the index for each PET scan, the ratio of tumour versus ipsilateral hemisphere in the same plane as the tumour showed the most significant correlation with glioma grade (p < 0.001). A large study of 62 thallium-201 SPECT scans showed equally good correlation with glioma grade (p < 0.0005). The use of thallium-201 SPECT for detection of tumour recurrence had 100% sensitivity in this series, while PET scans had 90.9% sensitivity. Patients with a rate of change in serial thallium indexes of 0.475 +/- 0.278 per month survived 5.93 +/- 2.25 months from onset of index increase, while those with little change in the index (0.069 +/- 0.063 per month) survived 17.93 +/- 5.25 months from onset of index increase. Results indicate thallium-201 SPECT correlates well with tumour grade and is equally efficient as PET in screening for glioma recurrence.