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01.12.2012 | Case report | Ausgabe 1/2012 Open Access

World Journal of Surgical Oncology 1/2012

18 F-fluoro-deoxy-glucose focal uptake in very small pulmonary nodules: fact or artifact? Case reports

World Journal of Surgical Oncology > Ausgabe 1/2012
Maria Lucia Calcagni, Silvia Taralli, Fabio Maggi, Vittoria Rufini, Giorgio Treglia, Lucia Leccisotti, Lorenzo Bonomo, Alessandro Giordano
Wichtige Hinweise

Electronic supplementary material

The online version of this article (doi:10.​1186/​1477-7819-10-71) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.

Competing interests

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

Authors’ contributions

MLC and ST drafted the manuscript, contributed to conception, manuscript and design preparation, and conducted a literature search. MLC, ST, FM, VR, and LB performed and analyzed PET and CT images. LL, GT, and FM contributed to acquisition of data and obtained images used in the manuscript. VR participated in the design of the study. LB and AG critically revised the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.



18F-fluoro-deoxy-glucose (18 F-FDG) positron emission tomography integrated/combined with computed tomography (PET-CT) provides the best diagnostic results in the metabolic characterization of undetermined solid pulmonary nodules. The diagnostic performance of 18 F-FDG is similar for nodules measuring at least 1 cm and for larger masses, but few data exist for nodules smaller than 1 cm.

Case presentation

We report five cases of oncologic patients showing focal lung 18 F-FDG uptake on PET-CT in nodules smaller than 1 cm. We also discuss the most common causes of 18 F-FDG false-positive and false-negative results in the pulmonary parenchyma.
In patient 1, contrast-enhanced CT performed 10 days before PET-CT did not show any abnormality in the site of uptake; in patient 2, high-resolution CT performed 1 month after PET showed a bronchiole filled with dense material interpreted as a mucoid impaction; in patient 3, contrast-enhanced CT performed 15 days before PET-CT did not identify any nodules; in patients 4 and 5, contrast-enhanced CT revealed a nodule smaller than 1 cm which could not be characterized. The 18 F-FDG uptake at follow-up confirmed the malignant nature of pulmonary nodules smaller than 1 cm which were undetectable, misinterpreted, not recognized or undetermined at contrast-enhanced CT.


In all five oncologic patients, 18 F-FDG was able to metabolically characterize as malignant those nodules smaller than 1 cm, underlining that: 18 F-FDG uptake is not only a function of tumor size but it is strongly related to the tumor biology; functional alterations may precede morphologic abnormalities. In the oncologic population, especially in higher-risk patients, PET can be performed even when the nodules are smaller than 1 cm, because it might give an earlier characterization and, sometimes, could guide in the identification of alterations missed on CT.
Authors’ original file for figure 1
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