Indian Journal of Nuclear Medicine

: 2010  |  Volume : 25  |  Issue : 4  |  Page : 173--175

New intraspinal cause of physiological FDG uptake

S Padma, P Shanmuga Sundaram, GS Shagos, S Vijay Harish 
 Department of Nuclear Medicine and PET CT, Amrita Institute of Medical Sciences and Research Center, Cochin, Kerala, India

Correspondence Address:
S Padma
Department of Nuclear Medicine, Amrita Institute of Medical Sciences and Research Centre, Cochin - 680 2041, Kerala


We present a paediatric case of Papillary Ca thyroid under evaluation for elevated Thyroglobulin (Tg) level with negative 131 I wholebody scintigraphy. Differentiated thyroid cancer (DTC) arises from follicular epithelium and retains basic biological features like expression of sodium iodide symporter (NIS), which is the cellular basis of radio iodine ( 131 I) concentration during thyroid ablation. Once dedifferentiation of thyroid cells occurs, cells fail to concentrate 131 I, posing both diagnostic and therapeutic problems in DTC and one may have to resort to other imaging techniques for disease localization. As DTC progression is slow, patients have a relatively good prognosis. However children with thyroid malignancies need aggressive management, as initial presentation itself maybe with nodal metastases. It is well known that FDG PET CT apart from its oncological applications, is also used in the evaluation of vascular inflammation especially Takayasu«SQ»s arteritis. It is also reported in literature, that 18 F-FDG uptake can be seen relatively frequently in the arterial tree of cancer patients. Dunphy et al reported the association of vascular FDG uptake in inflammation as well as in normal arteries. This study typically describes FDG uptake in a patchwork of normal vessel, focal inflammation and or calcification of vessels. The other plausible reasons for significant vascular 18 F-FDG uptake are drugs such as potent non steroidal anti-inflammatory agents, dexamethasone, prednisone and tacrolimus. Our patient showed false positive 18 F Fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG) uptake in spinal cord at D11/12 and D12/L1 vertebral levels in FDG PET CT imaging performed as part of raised Thyroglobulin workup. This intra spinal FDG uptake is attributed to physiological uptake and inadequate FDG clearance from artery of Adamkiewicz, which can be added as a new physiological cause of FDG uptake unreported in literature as yet.

How to cite this article:
Padma S, Sundaram P S, Shagos G S, Harish S V. New intraspinal cause of physiological FDG uptake.Indian J Nucl Med 2010;25:173-175

How to cite this URL:
Padma S, Sundaram P S, Shagos G S, Harish S V. New intraspinal cause of physiological FDG uptake. Indian J Nucl Med [serial online] 2010 [cited 2020 Jul 14 ];25:173-175
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Full Text


18F Fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG) Positron emission tomography (PET) is increasingly performed in DTC patients presenting with elevated serum Tg levels and negative 131 I scan. [1] With more and more centres acquiring PET CT scanners, it is imperative for the imageologist to know the potential pitfalls and artifacts of FDG imaging. Nowadays FDG PET CT imaging is routinely used in the evaluation of vascular inflammatory pathologies like Takayasu's arteritis. In these cases, pathological vessel wall FDG uptake is due to macrophage activation and cellular proliferation.[2],[3] Physiological FDG uptake occurs in many sites of the body and may cause confusion in interpretation particularly in oncological setup. Clinical correlation, awareness of physiological FDG uptake sites and FDG avid benign lesions are necessary to avoid potential pitfalls in image interpretation.

 Case Report

Our patient is an 8-year-old girl who presented to the Head and Neck department with swelling in lower neck noticed by her mother 10 days back. She had no history of pain, dysphagia, dyspnea, hoarseness of voice, cough, hemoptysis or bone pain. There is no history of hyper or hypothyroidism. Local examination revealed a 2 x 2 cm well defined, mobile nodule in midline region of thyroid, moving with deglutition. There were multiple small palpable bilateral cervical nodes. FNAC of thyroid was reported as Papillary carcinoma thyroid. Preoperative Serum Tg was 91.95 ng/ml. Total thyroidectomy with bilateral neck lymph nodal dissection (level II to V) was done in 2007. Histopathology confirmed the diagnosis of papillary carcinoma thyroid with bilateral cervical lymph nodal metastases. Patient underwent a residual thyroid and whole body 131 I scan which showed moderate residual thyroid tissue. Patient was treated with 925 MBq (Megabecqueral) of 131 I sodium iodide solution orally. A follow up whole body 131 I scan in October 2008 showed persistence of minimal residual thyroid tissue [[Figure 1]a]. Serum Tg off Thyroxin was 18.28 ng/ml (normal values in intact thyroid pt 1.4 to 78.0), Tg antibody was 3.20 IU/ml (normal is less than 225).{Figure 1}

Based on Whole body 131 I scan findings and raised Tg, patient was taken up for second sitting of high dose 131 I therapy [[Figure 1]b]. She was orally treated with 1406 MBq of 131 I sodium iodide solution

Follow-up Whole body 131 I scan in 2009, showed no abnormal uptake in neck as well as in rest of whole body survey [Figure 2]. Tg off Thyroxine showed elevated values of 21 and 23 ng/ml respectively, done at intervals of two months. Ultrasound neck and chest X-Ray were non-contributory.

As part of the workup, a Whole body PET CT scan was performed (off Thyroxin) which showed an abnormal linear focus of FDG uptake in intraspinal region of D11/12 and D12/L1 vertebral levels with a Standard Uptake Value (SUV) of 3.95 g/ml. There was no abnormal FDG uptake elsewhere in neck and rest of whole body survey. Subsequent MR spine showed no abnormality at lower dorsal level [Figure 3] and [Figure 4]. This linear intraspinal D11/12 and D12/L1 level FDG uptake was attributed in our case to possible FDG accumulation and improper clearance from vascular pool of normal course of artery of Adamkiewicz. Accumulation and improper FDG clearance from vascular pool has been cited in literature. [4],[5] It has also been reported that 18 F-FDG accumulation is seen relatively frequently in the arterial tree of cancer patients. [4] Certain medications like potent anti-inflammatory drugs, dexamethasone, prednisone, and tacrolimus [4] can also produce significant vascular 18 F-FDG uptake. Patient is now clinically asymptomatic and has been advised "Watchful waiting".{Figure 2}{Figure 3}{Figure 4}


Numerous investigators have reported the incremental value of FDG PETCT in the evaluation of large and medium sized vasculitis. [6] Otherwise gold standard investigation in this condition is histopathology which is not possible in all cases.[7] The main mechanism of action of FDG uptake in vasculitis is thought to be mediated by over expression of GLUT 1 receptor subtype due to macrophage, lymphocytes and neutrophil activation. [8] It produces diffuse FDG uptake in the arterial walls, whereas in atherosclerosis, the uptake is predominantly focal and patchy along the vessels, depending on the stage of the evolution of the atherosclerosis. [8]

Intraspinal FDG uptake was confirmed to be physiological FDG uptake in vessel i.e. artery of Adamkiewicz based on clinical exclusion, CT and MR findings. Normal course of this artery was identified with conventional selective angiography. However, both MR angiography and CT angiography [9],[10] have the potential to demonstrate the vessels of interest.

The Adamkiewicz artery is the largest segmental medullary artery typically arising from a left posterior intercostal artery (a branch of aorta) and supplies two thirds of the spinal cord via anterior spinal artery. In 75% of people, the artery of Adamkiewicz originates on the left side of the aorta between the D9 and D11 vertebral segments. [11] In approximately 30% it arises from the right side. 25 % of population can have two large anterior segmental medullary arteries.


With the increasing availability and use of PET scans in our oncological and non oncological practice, it is imperative for us to know all the physiological sites of FDG uptake for confident image interpretation. We can add this intra spinal physiological FDG uptake to the various other listed physiological sites already known.


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