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J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry. 2000 Mar;68(3):353-7.

Evaluation of (18)fluorodeoxyglucose positron emission tomography ((18)FDG PET) in the detection of malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumours arising from within plexiform neurofibromas in neurofibromatosis 1.

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Department of Clinical Neurosciences, UMDS Guy's, Kings and St Thomas's School of Medicine, London, UK.



The ability of (18)fluorodeoxyglucose positron emission tomography ((18)FDG PET) to detect malignant change in plexiform neurofibromas from patients with neurofibromatosis 1 (NF1) was evaluated.


Eighteen NF1 patients who presented with pain, increase in size, or neurological deficit associated with a plexiform neurofibroma were assessed. Magnetic resonance imaging determined the site and extent of the lesion. Qualitative(18)FDG PET was performed and the standard uptake value (SUV) measured the regional glucose metabolism. Histological confirmation of the diagnosis was obtained in 10 patients.


Twenty three plexiform neurofibromas were detected in 18 patients. Seven malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumours, four high grade and three low grade tumours, occurred in five patients. In one patient the clinical and radiological characteristics of the tumour suggested malignancy, but histology was inconclusive. Fifteen benign plexiform neurofibromas were identified in 12 patients and these findings were confirmed histologically in five lesions from four patients. Ten plexiform neurofibromas occurring in eight patients were considered benign on(18)FDG PET and the patients did not undergo surgery. They remained stable or their symptoms improved on clinical follow up (median 9 months). The results of qualitative (18)FDG PET were interpreted as indicating that 13 plexiform neurofibromas were benign and 10 were malignant. No malignant tumours were classified as benign, but two benign tumours were reported as malignant. The SUV was calculated for 20 tumours and was significantly higher in five malignant tumours 5.4 (SD 2.4), than in 15 benign tumours 1.54 (SD 0.7), p=0.002. There was an overlap between benign and malignant tumours in the SUV range 2.7-3.3.


(18)FDG PET is helpful in determining malignant change in plexiform neurofibromas in NF1. Increased separation between benign and malignant lesions could be obtained by calculating the SUV at about 200 minutes after injection of (18)FDG, when the peak activity concentration is obtained in malignant tumours.

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