Prospective study of somatostatin receptor scintigraphy and its effect on operative outcome in patients with Zollinger-Ellison syndrome

Ann Surg. 1998 Aug;228(2):228-38. doi: 10.1097/00000658-199808000-00013.


Objective: To determine the relative abilities of somatostatin receptor scintigraphy (SRS) and conventional imaging studies (computed tomography, magnetic resonance imaging, ultrasound, angiography) to localize gastrinomas before surgery in patients with Zollinger-Ellison syndrome (ZES) subsequently found at surgery, and to determine the effect of SRS on the disease-free rate.

Summary background data: Recent studies demonstrate that SRS is the most sensitive imaging modality for localizing neuroendocrine tumors such as gastrinomas. Because of conflicting results in small series, it is unclear in ZES whether SRS will alter the disease-free rate, which gastrinomas are not detected, what factors contribute to failure to detect a gastrinoma, or whether the SRS result should be used to determine operability in patients without hepatic metastases, as recently recommended by some investigators.

Methods: Thirty-five consecutive patients with ZES undergoing 37 exploratory laparotomies for possible cure were prospectively studied. All had SRS and conventional imaging studies before surgery. Imaging results were determined by an independent investigator depending on surgical findings. All patients underwent an identical surgical protocol (palpation after an extensive Kocher maneuver, ultrasound during surgery, duodenal transillumination, and 3 cm duodenotomy) and postoperative assessment of disease status (fasting gastrin, secretin test imaging within 2 weeks, at 3 to 6 months, and yearly), as used in pre-SRS studies previously.

Results: Gastrinomas were detected in all patients at each surgery. Seventy-four gastrinomas were found: 22 duodenal, 8 pancreatic, 3 primaries in other sites, and 41 lymph node metastases. The relative detection order on a per-patient or per-lesion basis was SRS > angiography, magnetic resonance imaging, computed tomography > ultrasound. On a per-lesion basis, SRS had greater sensitivity than all conventional studies combined. SRS missed one third of all lesions found at surgery. SRS detected 30% of gastrinomas < or =1.1 cm, 64% of those 1.1 to 2 cm, and 96% of those >2 cm and missed primarily small duodenal tumors. Tumor size correlated closely with SRS rate of detection. SRS did not increase the disease-free rate immediately after surgery or at 2 years mean follow-up.

Conclusions: SRS is the most sensitive preoperative imaging study for extrahepatic gastrinomas in patients with ZES and should replace conventional imaging studies as the preoperative study of choice. Negative results of SRS for localizing extrahepatic gastrinomas should not be used to decide operability, because a surgical procedure will detect 33% more gastrinomas than SRS. SRS does not increase the disease-free rate. In the future, more sensitive methods to detect small gastrinomas, especially in the duodenum and in periduodenal lymph nodes, or more extensive surgery will be needed to improve the postoperative disease-free rate in ZES.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Disease-Free Survival
  • Duodenal Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging
  • Duodenal Neoplasms / surgery
  • Female
  • Gastrinoma / diagnostic imaging*
  • Gastrinoma / etiology
  • Gastrinoma / metabolism
  • Gastrinoma / surgery*
  • Humans
  • Lymphatic Metastasis / diagnostic imaging
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / surgery
  • Prospective Studies
  • Radionuclide Imaging
  • Receptors, Somatostatin / metabolism*
  • Survival Analysis
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Zollinger-Ellison Syndrome / complications
  • Zollinger-Ellison Syndrome / diagnostic imaging*
  • Zollinger-Ellison Syndrome / metabolism
  • Zollinger-Ellison Syndrome / surgery*


  • Receptors, Somatostatin