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Year : 2015  |  Volume : 30  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 139-141  

Role of dual time fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG) positron emission tomography-computed tomography in identifying co-existing inflammatory and malignant disease: Who holds it (FDG) longer?

1 Department of Radiodiagnosis, Kerala Institute of Medical Science, Trivandrum, Kerala, India
2 Department of Radiodiagnosis, Amrita Institute of Medical Science, Kochi, Kerala, India
3 Department of Nuclear Medicine, Amrita Institute of Medical Science, Kochi, Kerala, India
4 Department of Pathology, Trivandrum Medical College, Trivandrum, Kerala, India
5 Department of Pathology, Amrita Institute of Medical Science, Kochi, Kerala, India

Date of Web Publication11-Mar-2015

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Anirudh V Nair
Department of Radiodiagnosis, Kerala Institute of Medical Science, Trivandrum - 695 029, Kerala
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/0972-3919.152976

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18-fluorodeoxyglucose positron emission tomography-computed tomography (PET-CT) is an integral part of imaging in the follow-up of head and neck malignancies. Very often distinguishing inflammatory/infective from malignant recurrence cannot be made confidently with standard uptake value (SUV) alone, as inflammatory lesions have shown to have a very high SUV, and in some cases both can co-exist. In such doubtful cases, dual time PET-CT (3-5 h delayed) is of paramount importance in confidently differentiating inflammatory/infective from a malignant cause.

Keywords: Dual time positron emission tomography-computed tomography, head and neck, inflammatory malignant, squamous cell carcinoma

How to cite this article:
Nair AV, Sandya C J, Shagos G S, Anirudh S, Rajamma BM, Ramachandran P V, Moorthy S. Role of dual time fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG) positron emission tomography-computed tomography in identifying co-existing inflammatory and malignant disease: Who holds it (FDG) longer?. Indian J Nucl Med 2015;30:139-41

How to cite this URL:
Nair AV, Sandya C J, Shagos G S, Anirudh S, Rajamma BM, Ramachandran P V, Moorthy S. Role of dual time fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG) positron emission tomography-computed tomography in identifying co-existing inflammatory and malignant disease: Who holds it (FDG) longer?. Indian J Nucl Med [serial online] 2015 [cited 2022 Jan 21];30:139-41. Available from:

   Introduction Top

Apart from the physical examination, endoscopy, computed tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging; positron emission tomography (PET) CT has evolved to become an integral component in the management of patients with head and neck pathologies. In head and neck, PET-CT is commonly used in the staging, treatment response assessment and follow-up of head and neck squamous cell carcinoma, lung, breast and colonic malignancies. Moreover, surgery related anatomical distortion and artifacts from metals and prosthesis can complicate the imaging interpretation where fused fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG) PET offers higher accuracy than PET or CT alone.

   Case Report Top

A 63-year-old female, case of carcinoma right alveolus (stage IV a moderately differentiated squamous cell carcinoma, underwent right segmental mandibulectomy with the right level I-IV selective neck dissection and flap reconstruction. She completed a course of postoperative concurrent chemo-radiation therapy (volumetric modulated arc therapy technique) with weekly cisplatin. She came 5 months later with history of fever, swelling and redness in the submental and right submandibular region.

Contrast-enhanced computed tomography neck [Figure 1] showed diffuse soft tissue swelling in right buccal space, parotid spaces and infra-temporal fossa. Multiple tiny rim enhancing lesions are noted in the subcutaneous fat of submandibular, carotid space on the right side. No erosion of body of mandible or bone graft. Possibility of inflammatory etiology with abscess was suggested. Exploration was done under general anesthesia, and pus was evacuated, sent for cytology and culture and sensitivity. Culture grew pseudomonas aeruginosa. She was put on antibiotics after debridement. Patient presented 1-month later with gaping wound with pus and severe neck and cheek pain.
Figure 1: (a) Soft tissue swelling in right masticator space (yellow arrow). (b) Floor of mouth (red arrow). (c) Submandibular space (blue arrow head). (d) Tiny abscess superficial to right sternocleidomastoid (green arrow)

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Positron emission tomography-computed tomography scan done showed increased abnormal FDG (uptake in the soft tissues of masticator, submandibular, carotid, submental space and infra-temporal fossa. Delayed scan done 3 h later showed retention of FDG in the masticator space [Figure 2]a and infra-temporal fossa [Figure 2]b suggesting metabolically active recurrent malignancy.
Figure 2: (a) Abnormal increased fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG) uptake noted in the soft tissue in the masticator space with early image (e) with a maximum standard uptake value (SUV) 8.4, retention of tracer in delayed image (d) with maximum SUV max 11.4. (b) Abnormal increased focal FDG uptake noted in infra-temporal fossae (SUV max early (e) = 8.0 and delayed (d) = 9.2)

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Tru-cut biopsy done from the masticator space showed areas of hemorrhage, inflammation [Figure 3] and nests of atypical squamous cells suggesting recurrence [Figure 4]a and b A month later she succumbed to her illness.
Figure 3: Areas of co-existing inflammation with granuloma formation marked with white arrows (×10)

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Figure 4: (a) ×10 image showing invasive alveolar carcinoma. (b) ×40 image showing invasive alveolar carcinoma

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   Discussion Top


While dealing with follow-up cases of head and neck malignancies, distinguishing inflammatory/infectious from a malignant recurrence can be challenging. A lesion with standard uptake value (SUV) max > 2.5-3 is considered suspicious for malignancy. [1] However, there might be considerable variation with inflammatory lesion, which can demonstrate high SUV in the range of malignant lesions. There are reports of infectious lesion reaching SUV as high as 6.69. [2] In cases with an ambiguity of recurrence versus inflammatory/infective etiology, SUV at single time point alone will not be reliable enough to be able to confidently rule out the possibility of underlying malignancy. In such cases, the use of dual time PET-CT will be of prime importance in confidently characterizing a lesion as malignant. [3]


Benign and malignant lesions exhibit a variable pattern of FDG uptake over time. Malignant cells express an increased numbers of glucose transporters (Glut1). [4] The rate limiting step of FDG retention in cells is that of metabolic trapping through phosphorylation of FDG. Unless FDG-6-phosphate is dephosphorylated by glucose-6-phosphatase, the former would be unable to leave the cell. Furthermore, most of the actively proliferating tumor cells have a low level of glucose-6-phosphatase. Thus, increased ratio of hexokinase/phosphatase in tumors contribute to the accumulation of FDG. [4],[5]

Mononuclear cells that represent the major cell type in inflammation and infection, express high level of glucose-6-phosphatase. [4],[6] Thus, FDG-6-phosphate can be rapidly dephosphorylated and cleared from the cell after reaching a certain limit. Thus, malignant cells would retain the FDG for a longer time while inflammatory/infective lesions would lead to a washout of FDG over a period of the short time.

Degree of neo-angiogenesis, necrosis, and hypoxia are other factors that can complicate the pattern of uptake of FDG.

Role of dual time fluorodeoxyglucose positron emission tomography computed tomography

Fluorodeoxyglucose uptake in inflammatory lesion increases gradually uptil 60 min and thereafter it decreases gradually. [7] Several studies have suggested higher sensitivity for malignancy detection when the delayed images are taken at 3-5 h. [8] Thus, the time interval between early and delayed scans in dual time PET-CT is of prime importance in distinguishing an inflammatory/infection process from a malignant etiology.

   Conclusion Top

Positron emission tomography-computed tomography is of valuable importance in imaging patients with head and neck malignancies. It has the advantage of combining anatomical localization through cross-sectional imaging with computerized tomography as well understanding the metabolic activity of underlying lesion with FDG-PET. In our case, though the initial suspicion was of infective sequalae, and the importance of role of dual time PET-CT was underlined, as the retention of FDG-PET helped us identify an underlying recurrence and the histopathology confirmed the co-existence of both infective as well as tumor recurrence. Thus, in follow-up of patients with malignancy dual time PET-CT will aid in differentiating inflammatory/infective causes from underlying recurrence and to rule out co-existing entities. Malignant cells would retain the FDG for a longer time while inflammatory/infective lesions would lead to a washout of FDG over a period of the short time.

   References Top

Wong RJ, Lin DT, Schöder H, Patel SG, Gonen M, Wolden S, et al. Diagnostic and prognostic value of (18) F fluorodeoxyglucose positron emission tomography for recurrent head and neck squamous cell carcinoma. J Clin Oncol 2002;20:4199-208.  Back to cited text no. 1
Sugawara Y, Braun DK, Kison PV, Russo JE, Zasadny KR, Wahl RL. Rapid detection of human infections with fluorine-18 fluorodeoxyglucose and positron emission tomography: preliminary results. Eur J Nucl Med 1998;25:1238-43.  Back to cited text no. 2
Zhuang H, Pourdehnad M, Lambright ES, Yamamoto AJ, Lanuti M, Li P, et al. Dual time point 18F-FDG PET imaging for differentiating malignant from inflammatory processes. J Nucl Med 2001;42:1412-7.  Back to cited text no. 3
Younes M, Lechago LV, Somoano JR, Mosharaf M, Lechago J. Wide expression of the human erythrocyte glucose transporter Glut1 in human cancers. Cancer Res 1996;56:1164-7.  Back to cited text no. 4
Nelson CA, Wang JQ, Leav I, Crane PD. The interaction among glucose transport, hexokinase, and glucose-6-phosphatase with respect to 3H-2-deoxyglucose retention in murine tumor models. Nucl Med Biol 1996;23:533-41.  Back to cited text no. 5
Suzuki S, Toyota T, Suzuki H, Goto Y. Partial purification from human mononuclear cells and placental plasma membranes of an insulin mediator which stimulates pyruvate dehydrogenase and suppresses glucose-6-phosphatase. Arch Biochem Biophys 1984;235:418-26.  Back to cited text no. 6
Yamada S, Kubota K, Kubota R, Ido T, Tamahashi N. High accumulation of fluorine-18-fluorodeoxyglucose in turpentine-induced inflammatory tissue. J Nucl Med 1995;36:1301-6.  Back to cited text no. 7
Boerner AR, Weckesser M, Herzog H, Schmitz T, Audretsch W, Nitz U, et al. Optimal scan time for fluorine-18 fluorodeoxyglucose positron emission tomography in breast cancer. Eur J Nucl Med 1999;26:226-30.  Back to cited text no. 8


  [Figure 1], [Figure 2], [Figure 3], [Figure 4]


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