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Year : 2019  |  Volume : 18  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 74-76

The importance of appropriate reporting and investigation of incidental findings on computed tomography attenuation correction images during myocardial perfusion scintigraphy

1 Department of Medical Imaging, The Prince Charles Hospital, Brisbane, Australia
2 Department of Medical Imaging, The Prince Charles Hospital, Brisbane; Faculty of Medicine, The University of Queensland, Australia

Date of Web Publication17-Jan-2019

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Francis T Delaney
Radiology Department, Mater Misericordiae University Hospital, Dublin 7, Ireland

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DOI: 10.4103/wjnm.WJNM_19_18

PMID: 30774554

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We present a case of lung cancer incidentally detected as a pulmonary nodule on computed tomography attenuation correction (CTAC) images during myocardial perfusion scintigraphy (MPS). Unfortunately, the incidental lesion was not fully investigated following MPS report and had developed into metastatic lung carcinoma when diagnosed over 1 year later, with failure of subsequent emergent chemotherapy. The disease appeared to be localized when initially detected during MPS. This case highlights the importance and potential clinical value of routine review of CTAC images in MPS with appropriate reporting and further investigation of suspicious incidental findings. In addition, the importance of effective communication between nuclear medicine department and treating team is clear to ensure suspicious incidental findings are given sufficient credence and thoroughly investigated promptly to avoid adverse clinical outcomes.

Keywords: Computed tomography attenuation correction, incidental findings, low-dose computed tomography, lung carcinoma, myocardial perfusion scintigraphy

How to cite this article:
Delaney FT, Gray EL, Lee JC. The importance of appropriate reporting and investigation of incidental findings on computed tomography attenuation correction images during myocardial perfusion scintigraphy. World J Nucl Med 2019;18:74-6

How to cite this URL:
Delaney FT, Gray EL, Lee JC. The importance of appropriate reporting and investigation of incidental findings on computed tomography attenuation correction images during myocardial perfusion scintigraphy. World J Nucl Med [serial online] 2019 [cited 2021 Jun 17];18:74-6. Available from: http://www.wjnm.org/text.asp?2019/18/1/74/250318

   Introduction Top

An incidental finding is one which is unexpected and unrelated to the primary indication for an investigation. They are particularly commonly encountered within the thorax on computed tomography (CT) imaging.[1] Any incidental finding which is of clinical concern for the potential to cause harm or provide benefit to the patient if reported is significant and generally necessitates further evaluation. The correct approach to dealing with incidental findings is an increasingly difficult challenge throughout medical imaging. Important steps to ensure they are managed appropriately include careful review of all acquired images, accurate reporting of unexpected findings in official imaging reports, clear communication between medical imaging department and treating teams, and evidence-based further investigation. Failure or delay at any stage can result in adverse clinical outcomes.

The accuracy of myocardial perfusion scintigraphy (MPS) in the evaluation of myocardial ischemia can be enhanced with the use of a low-dose CT scan to provide attenuation correction of the functional images.[2] This nondiagnostic CT acquired without breath-holding, or intravenous contrast produces low-resolution images of a sizeable portion of the thorax and upper abdomen as a by-product. Potentially significant incidental findings on these CT images have been reported in 2%–33% of MPS studies, with cases of previously undiagnosed malignancy described in previous published reviews [3],[4],[5],[6] and a solitary case report.[7] Despite this, the most appropriate approach to reviewing and reporting on these CT images and any incidental findings is controversial and has recently been advised against.[6],[8]

   Case Report Top

We present the case of a 74-year-old man who underwent MPS for evaluation of increasing dyspnea as part of a preoperative assessment before potential abdominal aortic aneurysm repair. He was a retired builder who was an ex-smoker of 25 pack-years with a past medical history including ischemic heart disease, severe chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and tissue aortic valve replacement.

MPS with technetium-labeled hexakis-2-methoxyisobutyl isonitrile (Sestamibi, Cardiolite ®, Lantheus Medical Imaging, North Billerica, MA, USA) as the radiopharmaceutical and adenosine as a pharmacological stressor showed no evidence of myocardial ischemia, and this was confirmed with automated analysis. However, a subpleural opacity in the posterior aspect of the right lower lobe was seen on review of the CTAC images [Figure 1]a. The corresponding slice on single-photon emission CT (SPECT) fused with CT is also shown [Figure 1]b. This measured 10 mm and was noted in the official MPS report. In accordance with current clinical guidelines for the management of lung nodules, further evaluation with full-dose diagnostic CT was recommended in the MPS report provided to the referring physicians.[9] Interestingly, there was no radiopharmaceutical (sestamibi) uptake associated with the tumor.
Figure 1: Selected axial low-dose computed tomography (a) image acquired for attenuation correction during myocardial perfusion scintigraphy (acquired in prone position). An incidental 10 mm opacity is seen within the right lower lobe. Further evaluation with full-dose diagnostic-quality computed tomography was recommended. Anatomical equivalent (b) shown on single-photon emission computed tomography

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The patient had undergone multiple CT examinations of the thoracic and abdominal aorta, which included the region where the incidental CTAC nodule was located, under the care of the vascular team in the years prior to the MPS taking place (most recently 1 year before MPS), but no lung nodules/opacities had been reported. A further CT aorta took place 2 months following MPS which reported that the nodule now measured 12 mm and was suspicious for malignancy [Figure 2]a and [Figure 2]b. Unfortunately, no further urgent investigation was performed based on the MPS report or this CT.
Figure 2: Selected axial (a) and coronal (b) computed tomography images from a CT aorta study Performed 2 months following myocardial perfusion scintigraphy. An incidental right lower lobe opacity, now measuring 12 mm is seen. Urgent further investigation was advised due to suspicion for malignancy

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The next imaging study performed was another CT scan, which occurred 14 months after MPS. This revealed that the pleural based opacity in the right lower lobe had grown to 23 mm and was now associated with multiple smaller opacities within the left lung and hilar lymphadenopathy [Figure 3]a and [Figure 3]b. An urgent biopsy was performed at this point providing a histological diagnosis of lung squamous cell carcinoma. Staging CT showed diffuse hepatic metastasis [Figure 4]a and [Figure 4]b. Emergent chemotherapy was started, but the patient died within weeks of its commencement.
Figure 3: Selected axial (a) and coronal (b) computed tomography images from a CT chest performed 14 months after the initial myocardial perfusion scintigraphy occurred. A 23 mm opacity was now present within the right lower lobe with associated hilar lymphadenopathy and multiple smaller opacities within the lung fields. Subsequent computed tomography-guided biopsy revealed lung squamous cell carcinoma

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Figure 4: Selected axial computed tomography images from (a) low-dose attenuation correction CT acquired during myocardial perfusion scintigraphy (acquired in prone position) and (b) staging computed tomography performed following lung cancer diagnosis 14 months later. Within the limits of the lower dose scan, no hepatic lesions are seen at the time of myocardial perfusion scintigraphy compared with multiple metastatic lesions on staging computed tomography

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   Discussion Top

In this case, there was a delay of over 12 months in fully investigating the incidental pulmonary nodule seen on CTAC images during MPS and again on CT aorta 2 months later. This was despite the MPS, and CT reports clearly recommending further investigation. When initially described incidentally during MPS, the nodule was localized with no evidence of regional or distant metastasis. Appropriate investigation and earlier diagnosis may have allowed for greater treatment options, and potentially, a better outcome as the prognosis of lung cancer is closely linked to disease stage.[10] The exact reason for the failure to investigate sooner is unclear.

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death worldwide. As it is often asymptomatic in the initial stages, it can potentially be diagnosed incidentally on unrelated investigations.[10] As lung cancer and ischemic heart disease share common risk factors, particularly cigarette smoking, patients undergoing MPS already represent a high-risk group. Moreover, low-dose CT has emerged as an effective screening tool for lung cancer in recent years, reducing mortality in high-risk groups with a significant exposure to cigarette smoking.[10] MPS with CTAC provides a low-dose CT through a considerable portion of the lung fields in a patient population at higher risk for lung cancer development, and although it cannot be directly compared to full-dose diagnostic CT or a structured screening program, can identify early cancers as shown here. This highlights the need for routine reporting and appropriate follow-up of incidental lung nodules on CTAC images during MPS.

   Conclusion Top

This case highlights the importance of routine review of CTAC images in MPS and the crucial role of effective communication between nuclear medicine and treating physicians following identification of any suspicious incidental finding. Further, referring physicians must follow-up and appropriately investigate potentially significant incidental findings promptly, particularly as they can represent undiagnosed malignancy as in this case. Failure at any step can result in adverse patient outcomes.

Declaration of patient consent

The authors certify that they have obtained all appropriate patient consent forms. In the form the patient(s) has/have given his/her/their consent for his/her/their images and other clinical information to be reported in the journal. The patients understand that their names and initials will not be published and due efforts will be made to conceal their identity, but anonymity cannot be guaranteed.

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Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

   References Top

Frank L, Quint LE. Chest CT incidentalomas: Thyroid lesions, enlarged mediastinal lymph nodes, and lung nodules. Cancer Imaging 2012;12:41-8.  Back to cited text no. 1
Pazhenkottil AP, Ghadri JR, Nkoulou RN, Wolfrum M, Buechel RR, Küest SM, et al. Improved outcome prediction by SPECT myocardial perfusion imaging after CT attenuation correction. J Nucl Med 2011;52:196-200.  Back to cited text no. 2
Goetze S, Pannu HK, Wahl RL. Clinically significant abnormal findings on the “nondiagnostic” CT portion of low-amperage-CT attenuation-corrected myocardial perfusion SPECT/CT studies. J Nucl Med 2006;47:1312-8.  Back to cited text no. 3
Husmann L, Tatsugami F, Aepli U, Herzog BA, Valenta I, Veit-Haibach P, et al. Prevalence of noncardiac findings on low dose 64-slice computed tomography used for attenuation correction in myocardial perfusion imaging with SPECT. Int J Cardiovasc Imaging 2009;25:859-65.  Back to cited text no. 4
Coward J, Lawson R, Kane T, Elias M, Howes A, Birchall J, et al. Multi-centre analysis of incidental findings on low-resolution CT attenuation correction images. Br J Radiol 2014;87:20130701.  Back to cited text no. 5
Coward J, Lawson R, Kane T, Elias M, Howes A, Birchall J, et al. Multicentre analysis of incidental findings on low-resolution CT attenuation correction images: An extended study. Br J Radiol 2015;88:20150555.  Back to cited text no. 6
Husmann L, Tatsugami F, Buechel RR, Pazhenkottil AP, Kaufmann PA. Incidental detection of a pulmonary adenocarcinoma on low-dose computed tomography used for attenuation correction in myocardial perfusion imaging with SPECT. Clin Nucl Med 2010;35:751-2.  Back to cited text no. 7
Coward J, Nightingale J, Hogg P. The clinical dilemma of incidental findings on the low-resolution CT images from SPECT/CT MPI studies. J Nucl Med Technol 2016;44:167-72.  Back to cited text no. 8
MacMahon H, Naidich DP, Goo JM, Lee KS, Leung AN, Mayo JR, et al. Guidelines for management of incidental pulmonary nodules detected on CT images: From the Fleischner Society 2017. Radiology 2017;284:228-43.  Back to cited text no. 9
Tanoue LT, Tanner NT, Gould MK, Silvestri GA. Lung cancer screening. Am J Respir Crit Care Med 2015;191:19-33.  Back to cited text no. 10


  [Figure 1], [Figure 2], [Figure 3], [Figure 4]

This article has been cited by
1 Prevalence and clinical significance of incidental findings on CT attenuation correction for myocardial perfusion imaging
Joseph C. Lee,Francis T Delaney
Journal of Nuclear Cardiology. 2021;
[Pubmed] | [DOI]


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