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Nucl Med Commun. 2006 Mar;27(3):261-6.

Radioiodine whole-body scans, thyroglobulin levels, 99mTc-MIBI scans and computed tomography: results in patients with lung metastases from differentiated thyroid cancer.

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Department of Nuclear Medicine, Ankara University Faculty of Medicine, Turkey.



The correlation between a 131I whole-body scan (WBS), a 99mTc sestamibi (99mTc-MIBI) WBS, a computed tomography (CT) scan and the value of routine follow-up for 131I WBS and thyroglobulin (Tg) levels in patients with lung metastases from differentiated thyroid cancer was assessed.


Pulmonary metastases were detected in 32 patients out of 583 with differentiated thyroid cancer (DTC) who were admitted to our clinic between 1985 and 2004 (age range, 22-79 years; mean, 58 +/- 19 years; 15 women and 17 men). Pulmonary metastases were diagnosed by considering the 131I WBS, increased Tg levels and/or other positive radiological findings. Papillary carcinoma was diagnosed in 15/32 patients and follicular carcinoma in 13/32. A mixed type found in 4/32 patients was classified histopathologically. A total of 3.7-53.65 GBq (100-1450 mCi) 131I was given to each patient. The duration of follow-up ranged from 36 to 240 months. A 131I WBS, the determination of Tg levels and/or a CT scan were carried out in the assessment of a diagnosis and follow-up of patients with lung metastases. A 99mTc-MIBI WBS was performed on 19 patients who were chosen at random from the 583.


Nineteen of 32 patients had lung metastases before they received the first 131I treatment. Six of the 32 had distant-organ metastases other than in the lungs. Four of these six patients had only lung and bone metastases. Pulmonary metastases were observed on the 131I WBS patients 31/32 (96.8%) whereas no pulmonary metastases, were detected on the CT scans in 3/32 patients. The last diagnostic whole-body scan (DWBS) was normal in 13/32 patients. At the first examination, the Tg levels in 27/32 (84.4%) patients were below 30 ng . ml(-1). At the final examination, 20/32 (62.5%) patients had Tg levels higher than 30 ng . ml(-1), while Tg levels were lower than 30 ng . ml(-1) in 12/32 patients. Tg levels decreased in 21/32 and increased in 3/32 patients. The 131I WBS continued to be abnormal in 2/3 patients with increased Tg levels but became normal in one patient whose CT scan still showed macro-nodular lesions. Tg levels did not change significantly in 8/32 patients. The 131I WBS became normal in 5/8 patients, while the CT scans for 4/5 showed micro-nodules. Metastases were detected in 12/19 patients who underwent 99mTc-MIBI whole-body scanning: 18/19 showed metastases on the 131I WBSs and 17/19 on the CT scans. Of the seven patients without a sign of metastasis on the 99mTc-MIBI WBS, one was negative in terms of metastasis on the 131I WBS and one on the CT scan. Fibrosis was observed on the CT scans of 2/32 patients. One patient developed dedifferentiation, as determined by the negative 131I WBS and positive CT scan.


131I whole-body scanning and the determination of Tg levels are the most important procedures for the evaluation of lung metastases in differentiated thyroid cancer. Computed tomography is a useful addition to 131I whole-body scanning. MIBI imaging alone may not be enough to detect lung metastases from differentiated thyroid cancer.

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