Diagnostic accuracy of radionuclide imaging using 131I nor-cholesterol or meta-iodobenzylguanidine in patients with hypersecreting or non-hypersecreting adrenal tumours

S. Maurea, M. Klain, C. Caracò, M. Ziviello, M. Salvatore

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The aim of this retrospective study was to evaluate the diagnostic accuracy of nor-cholesterol and meta-iodobenzylguanidine radionuclide imaging in two separate groups of patients with adrenal tumours to characterize lesions as adenoma or pheochromocytoma. We studied 75 patients (22 male and 53 female, mean age 47 ± 15 years) with hypersecreting (n = 32) or non-hypersecreting (n = 43) unilateral adrenal tumours detected by computerized tomography or magnetic resonance scans. 131I nor-cholesterol adrenal scintigraphy was performed in 41 patients. Meta-[131I] iodobenzylguanidine (131I-MIBG) imaging was acquired in the other 34 patients. Pathology examinations (n = 58) or computerized tomography follow-up studies (n = 17) were obtained. Adrenal lesions were represented by 44 adenomas, four cysts, one myelolipoma, one pseudotumour, one ganglioneuroma, 16 pheochromocytomas, three carcinomas, four metastases and one sarcoma. Radionuclide studies were qualitatively evaluated and the corresponding results were classified as true positive, true negative, false positive and false negative. Diagnostic sensitivity, specificity and accuracy as well as positive and negative predictive values were calculated. The diagnostic values of nor-cholesterol scintigraphy in identifying adrenal adenomas were sensitivity 100%, specificity 71%, accuracy 95%, positive predictive value 94% and negative predictive value 100%; of note, two false positive cases were observed represented by a pheochromocytoma and a myelolipoma. The diagnostic values of MIBG scintigraphy in recognizing pheochromocytoma were sensitivity 100%, specificity 95%, accuracy 97%, positive predictive value 94% and negative predictive value 100%; only one false positive case occurred consisting of a carcinoma. It is concluded that, in the large majority of cases, adrenal scintigraphy using nor-cholesterol or MIBG is able to characterize specific lesions such as adenoma and pheochromocytoma, respectively. These findings show relevant clinical impact, particularly in patients with non-hypersecreting adrenal lasions. Radiotracer selection depends on clinical patient history and department availability; since benign adenomas are the most common cause of non-hypersecreting tumours, nor-cholesterol should be the first choice followed by MIBG if nor-cholesterol shows normal images. However, rare as well as unusual findings may be observed; nor-cholesterol uptake may occasionally be also found in non-adenoma tumours such as myelolipoma and pheochromocytoma. Similarly, MIBG accumulation may occur not only in lesions arising from medullary chromaffin tissue, but also rarely in cortical adrenal carcinoma. (

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)951-960
Number of pages10
JournalNuclear Medicine Communications
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2002


  • Adrenal tumours
  • Characterization
  • Meta iodobenzylguanidine
  • Nor-cholesterol
  • Scintigraphy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Radiological and Ultrasound Technology


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