Positron Emission Tomography (PET) has Limited Utility in the Staging of Pancreatic Adenocarcinoma

Peter Einersen, Irene Epelboym, Megan D. Winner, David Leung, John A. Chabot, John D. Allendorf

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Background: Positron emission tomography (PET) as an adjunct to conventional imaging in the staging of pancreatic adenocarcinoma is controversial. Herein, we assess the utility of PET in identifying metastatic disease and evaluate the prognostic potential of standard uptake value (SUV). Methods: Imaging and follow-up data for patients diagnosed with pancreatic adenocarcinoma were reviewed retrospectively. Resectability was assessed based on established criteria, and sensitivity, specificity, and accuracy of PET were compared to those of conventional imaging modalities. Results: For 123 patients evaluated 2005-2011, PET and CT/MRI were concordant in 108 (88 %) cases; however, PET identified occult metastatic lesions in seven (5.6 %). False-positive PETs delayed surgery for three (8.3 %) patients. In a cohort free of metastatic disease in 78.9 % of cases, the sensitivity and specificity of PET for metastases were 89.3 and 85.1 %, respectively, compared with 62.5 and 93.5 % for CT and 61.5 and 100.0 % for MRI. Positive predictive value and negative predictive value of PET were 64.1 and 96.4 %, respectively, compared with 75.0 and 88.9 % for CT and 100.0 and 91.9 % for MRI. Average difference in maximum SUV of resectable and unresectable lesions was not statistically significant (5.65 vs. 6.5, p = 0.224) nor was maximum SUV a statistically significant predictor of survival (p = 0.18). Conclusion: PET is more sensitive in identifying metastatic lesions than CT or MRI; however, it has a lower specificity, lower positive predictive value, and in some cases, can delay definitive surgical management. Therefore, PET has limited utility as an adjunctive modality in staging of pancreatic adenocarcinoma.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1441-1444
Number of pages4
JournalJournal of Gastrointestinal Surgery
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Cancer staging
  • PET
  • Pancreas
  • Pancreatic adenocarcinoma
  • Radiology


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