Characterization of the solitary pulmonary nodule: 18F-FDG PET versus nodule-enhancement CT

Jared A. Christensen, Mark A. Nathan, Brian P. Mullan, Thomas E. Hartman, Stephen J. Swensen, Val J. Lowe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

108 Scopus citations


OBJECTIVE. The purpose of this study was to directly compare nodule-enhancement CT and 18F-FDG PET in the characterization of indeterminate solitary pulmonary nodules (SPNs) greater than 7 mm in size. MATERIALS AND METHODS. Examinations from patients undergoing both nodule-enhancement CT and 18F-FDG PET to characterize the same indeterminate SPN were reviewed. For nodule-enhancement CT, an SPN was considered malignant when it showed an unenhanced to peak contrast-enhanced increase in attenuation greater than 15 H. Fluourine-18-FDG PET studies were blindly reinterpreted by two qualified nuclear radiologists. SPNs qualitatively showing hypermetabolic activity greater than the mediastinal blood pool were interpreted as malignant. These interpretations were compared with the original prospective clinical readings and to semiquantitative standardized uptake value (SUV) analysis. Results were compared with pathologic and clinical follow-up. RESULTS. Forty-two pulmonary nodules were examined. Twenty-five (60%) were malignant, and 17 (40%) were benign. Nodule-enhancement CT was positive in all 25 malignant nodules and in 12 benign nodules, with sensitivity and specificity of 100% and 29%, respectively, and with a positive predictive value (PPV) and negative predictive value (NPV) of 68% and 100%, respectively. Qualitative 18F-FDG PET interpretations were positive in 24 of the 25 malignant nodules and in four benign nodules. Fluourine-18-FDG PET was considered negative in one malignant nodule and in 13 of the 17 benign nodules. This correlates with a sensitivity and specificity of 96% and 76%, respectively, and with a PPV and NPV of 86% and 93%, respectively. Original prospective 18F-FDG PET and semiquantitative SUV analysis showed sensitivity, specificity, PPV, and NPV of 88%, 76%, 85%, and 81% and 84%, 82%, 88%, and 78%, respectively. CONCLUSION. Due to its much higher specificity and only slightly reduced sensitivity, 18F-FDG PET is preferable to nodule-enhancement CT in evaluating indeterminate pulmonary nodules. However, nodule-enhancement CT remains useful due to its high NPV, convenience, and lower cost. Qualitative 18F-FDG PET interpretation provided the best balance of sensitivity and specificity when compared with original prospective interpretation or SUV analysis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1361-1367
Number of pages7
JournalAmerican Journal of Roentgenology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Nov 2006


  • CT imaging
  • Chest
  • Lung diseases
  • PET/CT

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging


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