Assessment of fluorodeoxyglucose F18–Labeled positron emission tomography for diagnosis of high-Risk lung nodules

Amelia W. Maiga, Stephen A. Deppen, Sarah Fletcher Mercaldo, Jeffrey D. Blume, Chandler Montgomery, Laszlo T. Vaszar, Christina Williamson, James M. Isbell, Otis B. Rickman, Rhonda Pinkerman, Eric S. Lambright, Jonathan C. Nesbitt, Eric L. Grogan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


IMPORTANCE Clinicians rely heavily on fluorodeoxyglucose F18–labeled positron emission tomography (FDG-PET) imaging to evaluate lung nodules suspicious for cancer. We evaluated the performance of FDG-PET for the diagnosis of malignancy in differing populations with varying cancer prevalence. OBJECTIVE To determine the performance of FDG-PET/computed tomography (CT) in diagnosing lung malignancy across different populations with varying cancer prevalence. DESIGN, SETTING, AND PARTICIPANTS Multicenter retrospective cohort study at 6 academic medical centers and 1 Veterans Affairs facility that comprised a total of 1188 patients with known or suspected lung cancer from 7 different cohorts from 2005 to 2015. EXPOSURES 18F fluorodeoxyglucose PET/CT imaging. MAIN OUTCOME AND MEASURES Final diagnosis of cancer or benign disease was determined by pathological tissue diagnosis or at least 18 months of stable radiographic follow-up. RESULTS Most patients were male smokers older than 60 years. Overall cancer prevalence was 81% (range by cohort, 50%-95%). The median nodule size was 22 mm (interquartile range, 15-33 mm). Positron emission tomography/CT sensitivity and specificity were 90.1% (95% CI, 88.1%-91.9%) and 39.8% (95% CI, 33.4%-46.5%), respectively. False-positive PET scans occurred in 136 of 1188 patients. Positive predictive value and negative predictive value were 86.4% (95% CI, 84.2%-88.5%) and 48.7% (95% CI, 41.3%-56.1%), respectively. On logistic regression, larger nodule size and higher population cancer prevalence were both significantly associated with PET accuracy (odds ratio, 1.027; 95% CI, 1.015-1.040 and odds ratio, 1.030; 95% CI, 1.021-1.040, respectively). As the Mayo Clinic model–predicted probability of cancer increased, the sensitivity and positive predictive value of PET/CT imaging increased, whereas the specificity and negative predictive value dropped. CONCLUSIONS AND RELEVANCE High false-positive rates were observed across a range of cancer prevalence. Normal PET/CT scans were not found to be reliable indicators of the absence of disease in patients with a high probability of lung cancer. In this population, aggressive tissue acquisition should be prioritized using a comprehensive lung nodule program that emphasizes advanced tissue acquisition techniques such as CT-guided fine-needle aspiration, navigational bronchoscopy, and endobronchial ultrasonography.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)329-334
Number of pages6
JournalJAMA surgery
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery


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