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A Journal on Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging

A Journal on Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging
Affiliated to the Society of Radiopharmaceutical Sciences and to the International Research Group of Immunoscintigraphy
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The Quarterly Journal of Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging 2006 September;50(3):167-192

language: English

Nuclear medicine methods for evaluation of skeletal infection among other diagnostic modalities

El-Maghraby T. A. F. 1, 2, Moustafa H. M. 1, Pauwels E. K. J. 3

1 Department of Nuclear Medicine Cairo University, Cairo, Egypt
2 Nuclear Medicine Section, Saad Specialist Hospital, Saudi
3 Division of Nuclear Medicine Department of Radiology Leiden University Medical Centre, Leiden, The Netherlands


Skeletal infection continues to be a common and difficult condition in clinical practice and early accurate diagnosis is very challenging. Clinical and laboratory features of skeletal infections are not always present, may be confusing, and are nonspecific for bone infection in its early stages, therefore, several imaging modalities are used for early detection of osteomyelitis. Plain films should always be the first step in the imaging assessment of osteomyelitis, however, the sensitivity for X-ray radiography has been reported to range from 43% to 75%, and the specificity from 75% to 83%. Over years, scintigraphic procedures have become an essential part of the diagnostic procedure for osteomyelitis. The standard approach for bone scintigraphy with tech 99mTc labeled methylene diphosphonate to assess for osteomyelitis is to perform a three-phase procedure. The positive uptake on all three phases is highly sensitive for osteomyelitis (sensitivity 73% to 100%). 67Ga citrate gained more attention for the more specific diagnosis of osteomyelitis due to its known capacity to localize in cases of active infection and pus. The reported specificity for 67Ga scintigraphy in osteomyelitis is around 67-70% and the specificity is much higher (92%) when 67Ga single photon emission tomography was obtained. Labeled white blood cell (WBC) imaging has become the procedure of choice to diagnose most cases of skeletal infections except for those of the spine. Labeling of leucocytes can be done either by 111In or 99mTc labeled hexamethylpropylene amineoxime. The sensitivity and specificity for labeled WBCs are in the high range of 80% to 90%. [18F]fluorodeoxyglucose positron emission tomography (PET) has been found to accumulate non-specifically at sites of infection and inflammation. Investigational studies showed that PET is particularly valuable in the evaluation of chronic osteomyelitis and infected prostheses. Other imaging modalities include sonography, computed tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). The sensitivity and specificity of CT for the diagnosis of osteomyelitis has not been established clearly and are in the range of 65% to 75%. The sensitivity of MRI for osteomyelitis has been generally reported as being between 82% and 100%, and specificity between 75% and 96%. Cases of osteomyelitis commonly referred to diagnostic imaging departments include chronic osteomyelitis, diabetic foot infections, vertebral osteomyelitis, joint prostheses and patients with suspected reinfection. These specific entities need special attention and careful selection of the correct tracer or combination of imaging modalities that is best suited for the proper therapeutic management protocols.

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