Study objectives: To study the ability of positron emission tomography (PET) using 18-fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG) to distinguish between benign and malignant disease in exudative pleural effusions and pleural thickening.
Design: Prospective study of 98 consecutive patients presenting with either pleural thickening or an exudative pleural effusion.
Setting: Department of pulmonary medicine of a university hospital.
Methods: FDG-PET was performed on each subject before invasive procedures were used to determine the etiologic diagnosis. FDG-PET data were analyzed by visual interpretation.
Results: Sixty-three of 98 patients were found to have malignant pleural disease after histologic analysis. Sixty-one of 63 patients with histologically confirmed malignant disease showed FDG uptake within the area of pleural thickening. Uptake was graded as intense in 51 cases and moderate in 10 cases. Only two patients with malignant pleural disease did not show increased FDG uptake. FDG-PET imaging showed an absence of FDG uptake, and correctly classified 31 of 35 benign lesions. For the remaining four lesions, intense FDG uptake was seen in one case of parapneumonic effusion, while moderate and localized uptake was observed in one parapneumonic, one tuberculous, and one uremic pleurisy. The sensitivity of the method to identify malignancy was 96.8% with a negative predictive value of 93.9%, while its specificity was 88.5% and its positive predictive value was 93.8%.
Conclusions: Our results suggest that FDG-PET is an effective tool for differentiating between benign and malignant pleural diseases.