Open Access Case report

Watchful waiting for some children with a mediastinal mass: the potential role for 18 F-fluorodeoxyglucose positron emission tomography: a case report and review of the literature

Rosa Nguyen1*, Jamie L Coleman2, Scott C Howard34 and Monika L Metzger34

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Pediatrics, University of Maryland, 22 S Greene St, Baltimore, MD 21210, USA

2 Department of Radiological Sciences, St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, 262 Danny Thomas Place, Memphis, TN, USA

3 Department of Oncology, St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, 262 Danny Thomas Place, Memphis, TN, USA

4 University of Tennessee Health Sciences Center, 920 Madison Ave, Memphis, TN 38163, USA

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BMC Pediatrics 2013, 13:103  doi:10.1186/1471-2431-13-103

Published: 10 July 2013



Benign hyperplastic thymus is a rare but important differential diagnosis of anterior mediastinal lesions. Histological and radiological criteria are used to distinguish this benign condition from other malignant diseases but have their limitations, and biopsy of mediastinal masses can be risky. We report for the first time the diagnostic value of fluorodeoxyglucose 18 F positron emission tomography for patients with incidentally identified anterior mediastinal masses to avoid biopsy in some cases.

Case presentation

A 2 year old girl presented with new onset of emesis and constipation leading to the incidental discovery of an anterior mediastinal mass on radiograph. Chest computed tomography revealed cystic components within the mass concerning for a malignancy. Biopsy of the lesion and bone marrow aspiration and biopsy were negative but there was concern that the mediastinal biopsy may have missed the malignant component of the lesion. Hence, a positron emission tomography scan was obtained that showed mild homogeneous fluorodeoxyglucose 18 F avidity within the mass similar to that of normal thymus. The diagnosis of benign hyperplastic thymus was made.


The differential diagnosis of an incidentally found anterior mediastinal mass includes malignancy, but benign lesions such as benign hyperplastic thymus must also be considered, particularly when the complete blood count and biochemical profile are normal. Fluorodeoxyglucose 18 F positron emission tomography can help guide a clinician’s decision for further interventions and treatment.

Mediastinal disease; Mediastinum; Positron-emission tomography; Thymus hyperplasia