False-Positive Uptake on Radioiodine Whole-Body Scintigraphy: Physiologic & Pathologic Variants Unrelated to Thyroid Cancer

Oh JR, Ahn BC

Radioiodine whole-body scintigraphy (WBS), which takes advantage of the high avidity of radioiodine in the functioning thyroid tissues, has been used for detection of differentiated thyroid cancer. Radioiodine is a sensitive marker for detection of thyroid cancer; however, radioiodine uptake is not specific for thyroid tissue. It can also be seen in healthy tissue, including thymus, breast, liver, and gastrointestinal tract, or in benign diseases, such as cysts and inflammation, or in a variety of benign and malignant non-thyroidal tumors, which could be mistaken for thyroid cancer. In order to accurately interpret radioiodine scintigraphy results, one must be familiar with the normal physiologic distribution of the tracer and frequently encountered physiologic and pathologic variants of radioiodine uptake. This article will provide a systematic overview of potential false-positive uptake of radioiodine in the whole body and illustrate how such unexpected findings can be appropriately evaluated.

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