A method was developed to assess the kidney parameters glomerular filtration rate (GFR) and effective renal plasma flow (ERPF) from 2-deoxy-2-[18F]fluoro-D-glucose (FDG) concentration behavior in kidneys, measured with positron emission tomography (PET) scans

Glomerular filtration rate (GFR) and effective renal plasma flow (ERPF) are important clinical measures for general kidney functionality. They have a high clinical value for detection, treatment, and prevention of kidney disease. In nuclear medicine these, parameters can effectively be determined or assessed by examinations using different radiotracers.

The most commonly used radiotracer for positron emission tomography (PET) examinations predominantly for oncological issues is the glucose analog 2-deoxy-2-[18F]fluoro-d-glucose (FDG). FDG enters the kidney from blood vessels, is filtered in the glomeruli, is partially reabsorbed in the proximal tubule, and is finally excreted.

Although it appears demanding to obtain information about renal function from a substance which is involved in that many different physiological processes, it would be of great advantage, if basic kidney function parameters, such as GFR and ERPF, could be extracted from the tracer’s behavior over time in a spatially resolved manner, allowing to even access the single kidney status.

Because the according to examination could happen within the accumulation time of FDG in the clinical routine, a determination of kidney functionality accompanying a routine dynamic FDG PET scan of the first 30 min after injection (p.i.) could save time and also applied radiation dose on patients (Fig. 1). This is of interest for patients, where kidney health status needs to be examined, e.g., in the case of patients getting a nephrotoxic chemotherapy.


Twenty-four healthy adult subjects prospectively underwent dynamic simultaneous PET/magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) examination. Time-activity curves (TACs) were obtained from the dynamic PET series, with the guidance of MR information.

The patlak analysis was performed to determine the GFR, and based on integrals, ERPF was calculated. Results were compared to intra-individually obtained reference values determined from venous blood samples.

Total kidney GFR and ERPF as estimated by dynamic PET/MRI were highly correlated to their reference values (r = 0.88/p < 0.0001 and r = 0.82/p < 0.0001, respectively) with no significant difference between their means.

The study is a proof of concept that GFR and ERPF can be assessed with dynamic FDG PET/MRI scans in healthy kidneys. This has advantages for patients getting a routine scan, where additional examinations for kidney function estimation could be avoided. Further studies are required for transferring this PET/MRI method to PET/CT applications.