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An analysis of true- and false-positive results of vocal fold uptake in positron emission tomography-computed tomography imaging

  • N Seymour (a1), G Burkill (a2) and M Harries (a1)

Positron emission tomography-computed tomography with fluorine-18 fluorodeoxy-D-glucose has a major role in the investigation of head and neck cancers. Fluorine-18 fluorodeoxy-D-glucose is not a tumour-specific tracer and can also accumulate in benign pathology. Therefore, positron emission tomography-computed tomography scan interpretation difficulties are common in the head and neck, which can produce false-positive results. This study aimed to investigate patients detected as having abnormal vocal fold uptake on fluorine-18 fluorodeoxy-D-glucose positron emission tomography-computed tomography.


Positron emission tomography-computed tomography scans were identified over a 15-month period where reports contained evidence of unilateral vocal fold uptake or vocal fold pathology. Patients’ notes and laryngoscopy results were analysed.


Forty-six patients were identified as having abnormal vocal fold uptake on positron emission tomography-computed tomography. Twenty-three patients underwent positron emission tomography-computed tomography and flexible laryngoscopy: 61 per cent of patients had true-positive positron emission tomography-computed tomography scans and 39 per cent had false-positive scan results.


Most patients referred to ENT for abnormal findings on positron emission tomography-computed tomography scans had true-positive findings. Asymmetrical fluorine-18 fluorodeoxy-D-glucose uptake should raise suspicion of vocal fold pathology, accepting a false-positive rate of approximately 40 per cent.

Corresponding author
Address for correspondence: Ms Nicky Seymour, Flat 9, 12–14 Wellington Road, Brighton BN2 3AA, UK E-mail:
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Presented orally at the Royal Society of Medicine, Laryngology and Rhinology Section meeting, 3 February 2017, London, UK.

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The Journal of Laryngology & Otology
  • ISSN: 0022-2151
  • EISSN: 1748-5460
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-laryngology-and-otology
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