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Surgery. 2003 Dec;134(6):918-22; discussion 922-3.

Is preoperative iodine 123 meta-iodobenzylguanidine scintigraphy routinely necessary before initial adrenalectomy for pheochromocytoma?

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  • 1Department of Surgery, University of Michigan, 1500 E. Medical Center Drive, Taubman Center TC2920H, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-0331, USA.



Iodine 123 meta-iodobenzylguanidine (MIBG) scintigraphy has been used in patients with clinical suspicion of pheochromocytoma to confirm the nature of an adrenal or extraadrenal mass or to identify occult disease. Additionally, it may be used to identify unsuspected bilaterality or metastases in the setting of a known unilateral adrenal mass before operation. We sought to determine the role of (123)I MIBG scintigraphy in this apparently routine preoperative setting. Our hypothesis was that (123)I MIBG would provide additional preoperative information that could modify operative intervention.


All patients undergoing (123)I MIBG scintigraphy at our institution between 1992 and 2002 were identified. MIBG results, operative procedures and findings, and pathologic findings were retrospectively reviewed and compared.


The (123)I MIBG scintigraphy was performed in a total of 315 patients. Of these, 48 were patients with an initial biochemical diagnosis of pheochromocytoma and a unilateral adrenal mass. 47 of the 48 (98%) primary scans were positive for a single focus of activity concordant with anatomic imaging data from computed tomography or magnetic resonance imaging and operative findings. The (123)I MIBG did not reveal unsuspected metastatic or bilateral disease in any patient.


In this large series of patients undergoing (123)I MIBG scintigraphy, the test served only to confirm diagnostic impressions and corroborate anatomic imaging. The (123)I MIBG did not alter the operative management of any patient with a solitary adrenal lesion in the clinical context of biochemically-proven catecholamine excess.

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