Purpose: The aim of the study was to determine the role of 18F-fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG) positron emission tomography/computed tomography (PET/CT) at the end of benzimidazole therapy in alveolar echinococcosis.
Methods: A total of 22 patients undergoing PET/CT at the end of benzimidazole therapy were retrospectively registered. Maximum standardized uptake values (SUVmax) were measured in remaining echinococcus manifestations and compared to normal liver tissue. Long-term clinical follow-up was performed, and recorded data included laboratory parameters, clinical information and imaging.
Results: All patients had no detectable levels of Em-18 antibodies and all echinococcus manifestations were negative on PET/CT, i.e. without focally increased FDG uptake or uptake higher than normal/non-infected liver tissue. All manifestations displayed significantly less FDG-uptake than normal liver tissue, i.e. SUVmax 1.8 (interquartile range (IQR) 1.5-3.5) vs. 3.0 (IQR 2.6-5.7), (p < 0.001). Patients were clinically followed for a median of 9.5 years (IQR 6.5-32.0 years) after their initial diagnosis and for 4.5 years (IQR 3.0-14.0 years) after discontinuation of benzimidazole therapy. No patient showed signs of recurrent infection at the last clinical visit. The 10-year and 20-year freedom from all-cause mortality was 95.0% (95% confidence interval 69.5% - 99.3%), for both. Two events occurred in 292 patient years of follow-up; i.e. two patients (9%) died, one because of pancreatic cancer, the other one because of unknown reasons with no detectable antibody levels.
Conclusions: Negative FDG-PET/CT results combined with no detectable levels of Em-18 antibodies may allow for the safe discontinuation of benzimidazole therapy in patients with alveolar echinococcosis.
Keywords: Alveolar echinococcosis; FDG; PET/CT; Therapy control.