FDG PET of the retroperitoneum: normal anatomy, variants, pathologic conditions, and strategies to avoid diagnostic pitfalls

Radiographics. 1998 Jul-Aug;18(4):805-23; discussion 823-4. doi: 10.1148/radiographics.18.4.9672967.


Evaluation of the retroperitoneum is important to assess the extent of retroperitoneal malignancies and because the retroperitoneum is a route of nodal spread for other malignancies. Positron emission tomography (PET) with 2-[fluorine-18]fluoro-2-deoxy-D-glucose (FDG) allows detection of small malignant nodes not identified or not meeting size criteria for malignancy with computed tomography (CT) and tumor recurrences in surgical beds that are otherwise difficult to assess. However, evaluation of retroperitoneal malignancies or adenopathy with FDG PET can be complicated by urinary and colonic activity or anatomic variants. Urinary artifacts are avoided with intravenous hydration, administration of furosemide, and catheterization and retrograde filling of the bladder with saline solution. Colonic artifacts are avoided by cleansing the bowel with an isosmotic solution. FDG PET is useful in assessing the retroperitoneum for adenopathy in malignancies such as testicular cancer; lymphoma; and rectal ovarian, or cervical cancer that spread along retroperitoneal lymphatics. FDG PET is especially useful for detection of malignant nodes that do not meet size criteria at CT or when lack of retroperitoneal fat makes it difficult to identify retroperitoneal nodes with CT. FDG PET has an important role in evaluation of postoperative beds, where CT has limited useful because of altered anatomy, surgical clip artifacts, and scar issue.

MeSH terms

  • Artifacts
  • Fluorodeoxyglucose F18*
  • Humans
  • Image Enhancement*
  • Lymph Nodes / diagnostic imaging*
  • Lymphatic Metastasis
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local / diagnostic imaging
  • Reference Values
  • Retroperitoneal Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging*
  • Retroperitoneal Space / diagnostic imaging*
  • Tomography, Emission-Computed*


  • Fluorodeoxyglucose F18