The cellular components of the atherosclerotic plaque, such as macrophages, exhibits high glucose metabolic activity. The aim of this study was to show the frequency of vascular uptake and possibly to explain the significance of this finding on fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG) positron emission tomographic (PET) scans.
We evaluated the presence of FDG vascular uptake in 132 consecutive patients undergoing whole-body PET scans and 5 patients who had only lower extremity scans. The presence of vascular FDG uptake was assessed in the abdominal aorta, iliac, and proximal femoral arteries on the 132 whole-body scans, whereas only the femoral and the popliteal arteries were examined on the leg scans. The patients’ ages ranged from 20 to 80 years, and they were divided into three age groups: 35 patients were younger than 40 years (group 1; mean age, 32.4 years), 48 patients were 41 to 60 years (group 2; mean age, 50.3 years), and 54 patients were older than 60 years (group 3; mean age, 70.3 years).
Fifty percent (69 of 137) of the total population showed vascular FDG uptake in at least one vessel. Thirty-four percent (12 of 35) of group 1, 50% (24 of 48) of group 2, and 61% (33 of 54) of group 3 showed vascular wall uptake (P = 0.017 between groups 1 and 3). In addition, the correlation between the mean age of the age groups and the prevalence of FDG vascular uptake is strong (r = 0.99).
Vascular FDG uptake is present in 50% of the patients examined for this study, with an increased prevalence in older patients. This vascular uptake might be explained by smooth muscle metabolism in the media, subendothelial smooth muscle proliferation from senescence, and the presence of macrophages within the atherosclerotic plaque. The relative contribution of these sources needs further investigation.
From the Departments of Nuclear Medicine* and Radiation Oncology,† Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Received for publication June 26, 2000.
Accepted October 23, 2000.
Correspondence: Abass Alavi, M.D., 110 Donner Building, Division of Nuclear Medicine, Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, 3400 Spruce Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19104. E-mail: email@example.com