, Volume 28, Issue 1, pp 258-264
Date: 13 Feb 2010

The role of PET-CT in the differential diagnosis of thymic mass after treatment of patients with lymphoma

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Thymic hyperplasia is a common phenomenon in both children and young adults after chemotherapy and may explain the finding of a mediastinal mass in patients with malignant lymphoma after complete remission. In the present study, we report 5 cases with malignant lymphoma presenting with a mediastinal mass on CT scan after completion of chemotherapy diagnosed as thymic hyperplasia by PET-CT imaging. We retrospectively analyzed 5 patients who presented with anterior mediastinal masses a median of 4 months (range 3–6) after achieving complete remission following successful treatment for malignant lymphoma. Three patients were diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma (HL) and the others with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL). The median age of the patients was 23 (range of 18–47). PET-CT was performed on these patients to determine the characteristics of a mass which had been detected on CT. PET-CT was performed for all patients, and the thymic masses demonstrated only mild FDG uptake considered to be consistent with thymic hyperplasia. During a median of 24 months of follow-up, all patients were recurrence-free with a median survival of 15 months (range 10–26 months). It is important to be aware of the possibility of thymic hyperplasia after chemotherapy to avoid misdiagnosis or over-staging of disease, as well as unnecessary biopsies, especially when the presenting anterior mediastinal mass was originally located near the thymus on CT scan. Mild FDG PET uptake was sufficient for the diagnosis of benign disease in the cases in this study.