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Computed tomographic and positron emission tomographic scanning of pulmonary nodules

Paul Stark, MD
Section Editor
Nestor L Muller, MD, PhD
Deputy Editors
Geraldine Finlay, MD
Susanna I Lee, MD, PhD


Computed tomography (CT) is an important tool in the evaluation of solitary and multiple pulmonary nodules. It determines the morphology and attenuation characteristics of nodules, defines additional nodules that may not be visible on conventional radiography, and detects additional intrathoracic abnormalities, such as enlarged mediastinal lymph nodes. CT provides clues to the nature of the nodule(s), as well as global thoracic assessment that may help guide patient management. (See "High resolution computed tomography of the lungs".)

Positron emission tomography (PET) is a nuclear imaging modality that provides insight into the metabolic activity of a pulmonary lesion and, by inference, yields information about the probability of malignancy. (See "Thoracic positron emission tomography".)

The use of CT and PET in the evaluation of solitary or multiple pulmonary nodules will be presented here. General issues related to the differential diagnosis and evaluation of the solitary pulmonary nodule are discussed separately. (See "Diagnostic evaluation of the incidental pulmonary nodule".)


CT is the imaging modality most often used to evaluate pulmonary nodules. In this section, we review technical aspects of CT and the use of CT in the evaluation of pulmonary nodules.

Technical aspects — Helical CT (ie, spiral CT) has several technical advantages in the evaluation of pulmonary nodules, compared to conventional, axial, step and shoot CT:

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Literature review current through: Nov 2017. | This topic last updated: Nov 16, 2017.
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