Diagnostic accuracy and prognostic value of 18F-FDG PET in Hürthle cell thyroid cancer patients

Daniel A. Pryma, Heiko Schöder, Mithat Gönen, Richard J. Robbins, Steven M. Larson, Henry W.D. Yeung

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106 Scopus citations


Hürthle cell carcinoma is an uncommon and occasionally aggressive differentiated thyroid cancer associated with increased mortality compared with other differentiated thyroid malignancies. Because it generally has lower iodine avidity, 18F-FDG PET has been suggested as a more accurate imaging modality. However, there is limited information with regard to the true diagnostic accuracy and prognostic value of 18F-FDG PET in this disease. Methods: All patients with Hürthle cell thyroid cancer who underwent their first 18F-FDG PET scan between May 1996 and February 2003 were identified retrospectively. 18F-FDG PET scans were reviewed and compared with all available imaging studies, including CT, ultrasound, and radioiodine scintigraphy (RIS). Abnormal 18F-FDG uptake was assessed visually and by measuring the maximum standardized uptake value (SUVmax) of the most intense lesion. Clinical follow-up for at least 1 y or until death was required for inclusion. Results: Forty-four patients met inclusion criteria. The median follow-up was 2.9 y. There were 24 positive and 20 negative 18F-FDG PET scans with 1 false-positive and 1 false-negative study, resulting in a diagnostic sensitivity of 95.8% and a specificity of 95%. In 5 of 11 patients who had both positive CT and 18F-FDG PET findings, 18F-FDG PET revealed additional sites of disease. Furthermore, 18F-FDG PET correctly classified as negative 3 patients with false-positive CT findings. In 3 of 6 patients with positive RIS, 18F-FDG PET revealed additional sites of metastatic disease. Ten patients with positive 18F-FDG PET had negative RIS. Only 1 patient with negative 18F-FDG PET had positive RIS. The SUVmax also provided prognostic information: In a stepwise fashion, each increase in intensity by SUVmax unit was associated with a 6% increase in mortality (P < 0.001). The 5-y overall survival in patients with SUVmax < 10 was 92%; it declined to 64% in those with SUVmax > 10 (P < 0.01). Conclusion: 18F-FDG PET has excellent diagnostic accuracy in Hürthle cell thyroid cancer patients, improving on CT and RIS. Intense 18F-FDG uptake in lesions is an indicator of a poor prognosis. Our data suggest that all patients with Hürthle cell thyroid cancer should undergo 18F-FDG PET as part of their initial postoperative staging and periodically to screen for occult recurrence, particularly in patients with elevated serum thyroglobulin.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1260-1266
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Nuclear Medicine
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 1 2006


  • CT
  • Hürthle cell thyroid cancer
  • Radioactive iodine scintigraphy
  • Thyroid cancer

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiological and Ultrasound Technology


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