[18F]fluoromethylcholine (FCH) positron emission tomography/computed tomography (PET/CT) for lymph node staging of prostate cancer: a prospective study of 210 patients


  • Trial Registration: clinicaltrails.gov. no. NCT00670527

Mads Hvid Poulsen, Department of Urology, Odense University Hospital, DK-5000 Odense C, Denmark. e-mail: mads.poulsen@webspeed.dk


Study Type – Diagnostic (exploratory cohort)

Level of Evidence 2a

What's known on the subject? and What does the study add?

Staging of patients with prostate cancer is the cornerstone of treatment. However, after curative intended therapy a high portion of patients relapse with local and/or distant recurrence. Therefore, one may question whether surgical lymph node dissection (LND) is sufficiently reliable for staging of these patients.

Several imaging methods for primary LN staging of patients with prostate cancer have been tested. Acceptable detection rates have not been achieved by CT or MRI or for that matter with PET/CT using the most common tracer fluoromethylcholine (FCH). Other more recent metabolic tracers like acetate and choline seem to be more sensitive for assessment of LNs in both primary staging and re-staging. However, previous studies were small. Therefore, we assessed the value of [18F]FCH PET/CT for primary LN staging in a prospective study of a larger sample and with a ‘blinded’ review. After a study period of 3 years and >200 included patients, we concluded that [18F]FCH PET/CT did not reach an optimal detection rate compared with LND, and, therefore, it cannot replace this procedure. However, we did detect several bone metastases with [18F]FCH PET/CT that the normal bone scans had missed, and this might be worth pursuing.


  • • To assess the value of [18F]fluoromethylcholine (FCH) positron emission tomography/computed tomography (PET/CT) for lymph node (LN) staging of prostate cancer.
  • • To evaluate if FCH PET/CT can replace LN dissection (LND) for LN staging of prostate cancer, as about one-third of patients with prostate cancer who receive intended curative therapy will have recurrence, one reason being undetected LN involvement.


  • • From January 2008 to December 2010, 210 intermediate- or high-risk patients had a FCH PET/CT scan before regional LND.
  • • After dissection, the result of histological examination of the LNs (gold standard) was compared with the result of FCH PET/CT obtained by ‘blinded review’.
  • • Sensitivity, specificity, positive (PPV), and negative predictive values (NPV) of FCH PET/CT were measured for detection of LNe metastases.


  • • Of the 210 patients, 76 (36.2%) were in the intermediate-risk group and 134 (63.8%) were in the high-risk group. A medium (range) of 5 (1–28) LNs were removed per patient.
  • • Histological examination of removed LNs showed metastases in 41 patients. Sensitivity, specificity, PPV, and NPV of FCH PET/CT for patient-based LN staging were 73.2%, 87.6%, 58.8% and 93.1%, respectively.
  • • Corresponding values for LN-based analyses were 56.2%, 94.0%, 40.2%, and 96.8%, respectively.
  • • The mean diameter of the true positive LN metastases was significantly larger than that of the false negative LNs (10.3 vs 4.6 mm; P < 0.001).
  • • In addition, FCH PET/CT detected a high focal bone uptake, consistent with bone metastases, in 18 patients, 12 of which had histologically benign LNs.


  • • Due to a relatively low sensitivity and a correspondingly rather low PPV, FCH PET/CT is not ideal for primary LN staging in patients with prostate cancer.
  • • However, FCH PET/CT does convey important additional information otherwise not recognised, especially for bone metastases.