BACKGROUND: We studied patients treated with radical cystectomy for locally advanced bladder cancer to compare the results of both preoperative positron emission tomography/computed tomography (PET/CT) and conventional CT with the findings of postoperative histopathological evaluation of lymph nodes. METHODS: Patients who had bladder cancer and were candidates for cystectomy underwent preoperative PET/CT using 18-fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG) and conventional CT. The results regarding lymph node involvement were independently evaluated by two experienced radiologists and were subsequently compared with histopathology results, the latter of which were reassessed by an experienced uropathologist (HO). RESULTS: There were 54 evaluable patients (mean age 68 years, 47 [85 %] males and 7 [15 %] females) with pT and pN status as follows: < pT2-14 (26 %), pT2-10 (18 %), and > pT2-30 (56 %); pN0 37 (69 %) and pN+ 17 (31 %). PET/CT showed positive lymph nodes in 12 patients (22 %), and 7 of those cases were confirmed by histopathology; the corresponding results for conventional CT were 11 (20 %) and 7 patients (13 %), respectively. PET/CT had 41 % sensitivity, 86 % specificity, 58 % PPV, and 76 % NPV, whereas the corresponding figures for conventional CT were 41 %, 89 %, 64 %, and 77 %. Additional analyses of the right and left side of the body or in specified anatomical regions gave similar results. CONCLUSIONS: In this study, PET/CT and conventional CT had similar low sensitivity in detecting and localizing regional lymph node metastasis in bladder cancer.