Tumor staging using whole-body high-resolution 16-channel PET-CT: does additional low-dose chest CT in inspiration improve the detection of solitary pulmonary nodules?

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For optimal image fusion between CT and F-18-FDG-PET, the acquisition of CT images is performed in mild expiratory suspension, which might compromise the detection of lung metastases. This study aimed at evaluating the influence of expiration on the detection of solitary pulmonary nodules (SPN) and at assessing if additional inspiratory low-dose CT (I-LDCT) of the chest can improve the detection of potential lung metastases performing whole-body 16-channel PET-CT. Sixty-six patients with malignant tumors underwent PET-CT: contrast-enhanced CT was acquired during mild expiration and was used for fusion with PET images; additionally, chest I-LDCT was performed at deep inspiration. Two radiologists reported all SPN detected at I-LDCT and the expiratory CT scan independently. Overall, 53% of 128 SPN (mean: 3.8±0.2 mm) were detected at both respiratory states: 51 SPN only at I-LDCT, and 9 nodules only at expiratory CT. Of the SPN, 117/128 were classified as certain; 45 of those were additionally detected at I-LDCT, and 6 nodules at expiratory CT. A 100% detection rate was reached in SPN >4 mm at I-LDCT versus >8 mm at expiratory CT (all P<0.001). Additional I-LDCT of the chest significantly improves the detection of SPN at whole-body F-18-FDG-PET-CT and thus is recommended as part of the standard protocol for oncological patients.

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