Introduction and aim: Post-transplant lymphoproliferative disorder (PTLD) is a serious complication after solid organ and hematopoietic stem cell transplantation, associated with significant morbidity and mortality. In this systematic review we evaluated the clinical performance of advanced imaging modalities at diagnosis and treatment response evaluation of PTLD patients after solid organ and hematopoietic stem cell transplantation.
Methods: We have carried out a literature search until December 15, 2017 using PubMed/Medline, Embase, "Web of Science" and Cochrane Library databases concerning the performance of computed tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and F-18-flurodeoxyglucose positron emission tomography/computed tomography (FDG-PET/CT) at diagnosis or treatment response evaluation of PTLD patients.
Results: A total of 11 studies were included comprising 368 patients, from which FDG-PET(/CT) was the primary imaging modality investigated. The methodological quality according to QUADAS-2 of the reviewed studies was moderate-poor. Subgroup analysis of imaging results for detection and staging in patients with PTLD indicated that FDG-PET/(CT) identified additional lesions not detected by CT and/or MRI in 27.8%, (95% confidence interval [95%CI]) 17.0%-42.0% (I-2 = 51.1%), from which extra-nodal sites in 23.6% (95%CI: 7.9%-52.4%) (I-2 = 76.6%). False negative results occurred in 11.5% (95%CI: 4.9%-24.5%) (I-2 = 73.4%), predominantly in physiological high background activity regions and in early PTLD lesions. False positive results occurred in 4.8% (95%CI: 2.6%-8.6%) (I-2 = 0%) predominantly due to inflammatory conditions. Subgroup analysis of imaging results at treatment response evaluation indicated that FDG-PET(/CT) findings altered or guided treatment in 29.0% (95%CI: 14.0%-50.5%) (I-2 = 40.1%). False positive results during treatment response evaluation were reported in 20.0% (95%CI: 10.7%-34.2%) (I-2 = 0%), predominantly due to inflammatory conditions.
Conclusion: FDG-PET(/CT) is currently the most frequently investigated imaging modality in PTLD patients. Available studies report promising results in detection, staging and therapy evaluation but suffer from methodological shortcomings. Concerns remain with regard to occurrence of false negatives due to physiological high background activity and early PTLD lesions as well as false positives due to inflammatory conditions.