Imaging of mediastinal lymph nodes: CT, MR, and FDG PET

Radiographics. Sep-Oct 1998;18(5):1061-9. doi: 10.1148/radiographics.18.5.9747607.


The evaluation of mediastinal lymph nodes is an important aspect of staging in patients with non-small cell lung cancer. Anatomic imaging of lymph nodes with computed tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance (MR) imaging has been limited by the relatively low sensitivity and specificity of these techniques. Advances in physiologic imaging of mediastinal lymph nodes with 2-[fluorine-18] fluoro-2-deoxy-D-glucose (FDG) positron emission tomography (PET) have resulted in improved diagnostic accuracy in the determination of nodal status. Despite the limitations of CT, this technique still plays an important role by aiding in the selection of the most appropriate procedure for staging, by guiding biopsy, and by providing anatomic information for visual correlation with FDG PET images. At present, anatomic MR imaging of lymph nodes is primarily a problem-solving tool for cases with inconclusive CT results. Physiologic MR imaging with iron oxide is an exciting area of investigation, and the accuracy of this technique is being assessed in clinical trials. Anatomic and physiologic imaging techniques should be considered complementary rather than competitive imaging strategies.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung / pathology
  • Fluorine Radioisotopes
  • Fluorodeoxyglucose F18
  • Humans
  • Lung Neoplasms / pathology
  • Lymph Nodes / diagnostic imaging
  • Lymph Nodes / pathology
  • Lymphatic Metastasis / diagnosis*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Mediastinum
  • Neoplasm Staging
  • Radiopharmaceuticals
  • Tomography, Emission-Computed*
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed*


  • Fluorine Radioisotopes
  • Radiopharmaceuticals
  • Fluorodeoxyglucose F18