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Medullary Thyroid Carcinoma: Do Ultrasonography and F-DOPA-PET-CT Influence the Initial Surgical Strategy?

Lindsay Brammen MD, Martin B. Niederle MD, Philipp Riss MD, Christian Scheuba MD, Andreas Selberherr MD, Georgios Karanikas MD, Gerd Bodner MD, Oskar Koperek MD, Bruno Niederle MD
Endocrine Tumors
Volume 25, Issue 13 / December , 2018



At the time of diagnosis, one-third of medullary thyroid carcinoma (MTC) patients show lymph node (LN) or distant metastasis. A metastasized MTC requires different surgical strategies.


This study aimed to determine the value of ultrasound and [18F]fluoro-dihydroxyphenylalanine positron emission tomography with computed tomography (F-DOPA-PET-CT) in localizing MTC, as well as LN and distant metastasis.


The study included 50 patients (24 males/26 females) with preoperative ultrasound, F-DOPA-PET-CT, and histologically proven MTC. Imaging results were correlated with both preoperative basal calcitonin (bCt) levels and final histology.


Tumors were classified as pT1a:17 (diameter, mean ± standard deviation: 5.8 ± 3.0 mm), pT1b:15 (15.0 ± 3.2 mm), pT2:9 (27.3 ± 7.0 mm), and pT3:9 (38.3 ± 24.2 mm). The median bCt level was 202 pg/mL (lower/upper quartile: 82/1074 pg/mL. Ultrasound was positive for tumor in 45/50 (92%) patients (20.0 ± 16.0 mm) and negative in 5 patients (3.2 ± 2.2 mm). Overall, 43/50 (86%) patients had positive F-DOPA local scans (20.0 ± 16.4 mm), while 7 (14%) patients were negative (7.7 ± 8.1 mm). Lastly, 21/50 (42%) patients had LN metastasis; 8/21 (38%) patients had positive LNs suspected with ultrasound, and 12/21 (57%) patients had positive LNs suspected with F-DOPA. Tumor and LN sensitivity of ultrasound was 92% and 43%, respectively, and 86% and 57% of F-DOPA-PET-CT, respectively. In 3/50 (6%) patients and 3/50 (6%) patients, mediastinal LN metastasis and distant metastasis, respectively, were diagnosed only by F-DOPA-PET-CT.


Ultrasound and F-DOPA-PET-CT are sensitive for the localization of MTC but not for the presence and location of LN metastasis (limitations: size/number). Only F-DOPA ensures the diagnosis of distant metastasis and influences the extent of LN surgery. Surgical strategy cannot be predicted based on neither ultrasound nor F-DOPA-PET-CT.

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