PURPOSE: We evaluate the accuracy of F-18 fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG)-positron emission tomography (PET) for staging and management of renal cell carcinoma. MATERIALS AND METHODS: FDG-PET was performed in 25 patients with known or suspected primary renal tumors and/or metastatic disease and compared with conventional imaging techniques, including computerized tomography (CT). Histopathological confirmation was obtained in 18 patients and confirmation of the disease was by followup in the remainder. The impact of FDG-PET on disease management was also assessed. RESULTS: Of the 17 patients with known or suspected primary tumors FDG-PET was true positive in 15, true negative in 1 and false-negative in 1. Comparative CT was true positive in 16 patients and false-positive in 1. The accuracy of FDG-PET and CT was similar (94%). All patients would have undergone radical nephrectomy after conventional imaging findings but FDG-PET results altered treatment decisions for 6 (35%), of whom 3 underwent partial nephrectomy and 3 avoided surgery due to confirmation of benign pathology or detection of unsuspected metastatic disease. Of the 8 cases referred for evaluation of local recurrence and/or metastatic disease FDG-PET changed treatment decisions in 4 (50%), with disease up staged in 3 and recurrence excluded in 1. Compared with CT, FDG-PET was able to detect local recurrence and distant metastases more accurately and differentiated recurrence from radiation necrosis. CONCLUSIONS: FDG-PET accurately detected local disease spread and metastatic disease in patients with renal cell carcinoma and altered treatment in 40%. FDG-PET may have a role in the diagnostic evaluation of patients with renal cell carcinoma preoperatively and staging of metastatic disease.