The role of radiological and hybrid imaging for muscle metastases: a systematic review


The role of radiological and hybrid imaging for muscle metastases: a systematic review


Amalia Lupi, Michael Weber, Paolo Del Fiore, Marco Rastrelli, Giuseppe Guglielmi, Roberto Stramare, Emilio Quaia, Diego Cecchin & Chiara Giraudo 


Aim of the study

Skeletal muscle metastases (SMM) are a rare entity, mainly detected at autopsy. Nevertheless, radiological and nuclear medicine imaging can contribute to the diagnosis with a significant impact on the treatment and prognosis of neoplastic patients. This study aimed to systematically review the features of SMM at imaging considering the primary tumors and the sites of occurrence.

Materials and methods

We conducted a systematic search of three electronic database (i.e., PubMed, Science Direct, and Web of Science) up to May 2019, without any language or time interval restriction. Two reviewers performed the search and selection process, data extraction, and synthesis. We resolved disagreements by consensus and/or involving a third reviewer. The included studies have been classified according to the Oxford Centre for Evidence Based Medicine (CEBM) grading system.


Out of 8598 and 1077 articles respectively for radiological and hybrid imaging, 29 papers were included. According to CEBM, twelve were level 4. Computed tomography (CT) is mainly applied and, despite the existence of CT and magnetic resonance–based classifications, these are rarely used. Positron emission tomography/CT allowed the detection of small and subtle lesion also in the extremities. Muscles of the trunk were mostly affected and mainly respiratory tumors are associated with this type of metastatic spread.


Radiological and hybrid imaging allow a precise characterization of SMM. However, a more systematic approach, including also the application of available classification systems, may increase the diagnostic accuracy for this rare type of metastases.

Key Points

• Skeletal muscle metastases have heterogeneous characteristics at imaging but mostly abscess-like features and high metabolic activity are described.

• Skeletal muscle metastases mainly affect the muscles of the trunk.

• Pulmonary, urological, and gastrointestinal cancers are the most frequent cause of skeletal muscle metastases.

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Year 2020
Language English
Format PDF
DOI 10.1007/s00330-019-06555-4