Detection of Richter's transformation of chronic lymphocytic leukemia by PET/CT

John F. Bruzzi*, Homer Macapinlac, Apostolia M. Tsimberidou, Mylene T. Truong, Michael J. Keating, Edith M. Marom, Reginald F. Munden

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Our objective was to evaluate the accuracy of PET/CT for the diagnosis of Richter's transformation of chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) to diffuse large cell lymphoma. Methods: A retrospective study was performed of 37 patients with CLL who underwent 18F-FDG PET/CT at our institution between March 2003 and July 2005. All PET/CT scans were reviewed in consensus by 2 diagnostic radiologists. Sites of abnormal 18F-FDG uptake with a maximum standardized uptake value (SUVmax) of greater than 5 were considered highly suggestive of Richter's transformation. The PET/CT findings were correlated with histologic findings from bone marrow or lymph node biopsy performed within 6 wk of PET/CT and with clinical follow-up. Results: The 37 patients (26 men and 11 women; mean age, 61 y, range, 40-82 y) underwent 57 PET/CT scans. In 10 (91%) of 11 patients with Richter's transformation, PET/CT detected sites of abnormal 18F-FDG uptake having an SUVmax of greater than 5. Richter's transformation was missed in 1 patient who had only low-grade 18F-FDG uptake (SUVmax < 5). Nine patients had false-positive PET/CT findings; in 3 of these patients, alternative malignancies were diagnosed (Hodgkin's disease; metastatic neuroendocrine carcinoma; non-small cell lung cancer). In all remaining patients, PET/CT correctly excluded Richter's transformation. For the specific diagnosis of Richter's transformation of CLL to diffuse large B-cell lymphoma, PET/CT had overall sensitivity, specificity, and positive and negative predictive values of 91%, 80%, and 53% and 97%, respectively. Conclusion: PET/CT can detect Richter's transformation of CLL to diffuse large B-cell lymphoma with a high sensitivity and a high negative predictive value.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1267-1273
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Nuclear Medicine
Issue number8
StatePublished - 1 Aug 2006
Externally publishedYes


  • Chronic lymphocytic leukemia
  • Lymphoma
  • PET
  • PET/CT
  • Richter's transformation


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