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Clin Radiol. 2012 Oct;67(10):988-1000. doi: 10.1016/j.crad.2012.02.005. Epub 2012 Apr 7.

Adrenal neoplasms.

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Department of Radiology & Diagnostic Imaging, University of Alberta Hospital, Edmonton, Canada.


Adenoma, myelolipoma, phaeochromocytoma, metastases, adrenocortical carcinoma, neuroblastoma, and lymphoma account for the majority of adrenal neoplasms that are encountered in clinical practice. A variety of imaging methods are available for evaluating adrenal lesions including ultrasound, computed tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and nuclear medicine techniques such as meta-iodobenzylguanidine (MIBG) scintigraphy and positron-emission tomography (PET). Lipid-sensitive imaging techniques such as unenhanced CT and chemical shift MRI enable detection and characterization of lipid-rich adenomas based on an unenhanced CT attenuation of ≤ 10 HU and signal loss on opposed-phase compared to in-phase T1-weighted images, respectively. In indeterminate cases, an adrenal CT washout study may differentiate adenomas (both lipid-rich and lipid-poor) from other adrenal neoplasms based on an absolute percentage washout of >60% and/or a relative percentage washout of >40%. This is based on the principle that adenomas show rapid contrast washout while most other adrenal neoplasms including malignant tumours show slow contrast washout instead. ¹⁸F-2-fluoro-2-deoxy-d-glucose-PET (¹⁸FDG-PET) imaging may differentiate benign from malignant adrenal neoplasms by demonstrating high tracer uptake in malignant neoplasms based on the increased glucose utilization and metabolic activity found in most of these malignancies. In this review, the multi-modality imaging appearances of adrenal neoplasms are discussed and illustrated. Key imaging findings that facilitate lesion characterization and differentiation are emphasized. Awareness of these imaging findings is essential for improving diagnostic confidence and for reducing misinterpretation errors.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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