Diagnosis of osteomyelitis by MR imaging

E. Unger, P. Moldofsky, R. Gatenby, W. Hartz, G. Broder

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214 Scopus citations


Bone scans are highly sensitive for the diagnosis of acute osteomyelitis, but the difficulty of separating bone-marrow processes from soft-tissue disease limits the specificity and accuracy. A diagnostic technique capable of distinguishing bone-marrow processes from soft-tissue disease would improve the diagnostic accuracy of osteomyelitis. To evaluate the use of MR in the diagnosis of osteomyelitis, MR examinations were performed in 35 patients with suspected acute osteomyelitis. Twelve of these were proved to have osteomyelitis either by surgery (nine patients) or by clinical follow-up (three patients). In the other 23, osteomyelitis was excluded by surgery (12 patients) or by the clinical course (11 patients). Evidence of osteomyelitis on MR consisted of abnormalities of the bone marrow with decreased signal intensity on the T1-weighted images and increased signal intensity on the T2-weighted or short-TI inversion recovery (STIR) images. MR and bone scintigraphy were interpreted by two radiologists who were given no clinical information other than to rule out osteomyelitis. The sensitivities of MR and static bone scan were 100% for bone-marrow abnormality. Because bone-marrow abnormality in osteomyelitis associated with healing fractures was incorrectly diagnosed by MR (one case) and bone scintigraphy (two cases), the sensitivities of MR and scintigraphy for the diagnosis of osteomyelitis were 92% and 82%, respectively. The specificities of MR and scintigraphy were 96% and 65%, respectively (p < .05). The overall accuracy for the diagnosis of osteomyelitis was 94% for MR and 71% for bone scan (p < .05). Because of its ability to separate soft-tissue disease from underlying bone marrow, MR may be used to evaluate patients with positive bone scintigraphy to improve the specificity and accuracy of diagnosis for osteomyelitis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)605-610
Number of pages6
JournalAmerican Journal of Roentgenology
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1988

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging


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