Exclusion of chronic osteomyelitis with F-18 fluorodeoxyglucose positron emission tomographic imaging

Clin Nucl Med. 2000 Apr;25(4):281-4. doi: 10.1097/00003072-200004000-00009.


Purpose: Excluding the diagnosis of chronic osteomyelitis is often difficult with noninvasive techniques, especially when bone anatomy and structure have been altered by trauma, surgery, or soft-tissue infection. It has been reported that fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG) positron emission tomography (PET) has excellent potential to diagnose osteomyelitis. In this study, the accuracy of FDG PET in the diagnosis of chronic osteomyelitis was determined.

Method: Twenty-two patients with possible osteomyelitis (5 in the tibia, 5 in the spine, 4 in the proximal femur, 4 in the pelvis, 2 in the maxilla, and 2 in the feet) who underwent FDG PET imaging and on whom operative or clinical follow-up data were available were included in this analysis. The final diagnosis was made by surgical exploration or clinical follow-up during a 1-year period.

Results: FDG PET correctly diagnosed the presence or absence of chronic osteomyelitis in 20 of 22 patients. Six had chronic osteomyelitis and 16 proved to be free of osteomyelitis. FDG PET correctly identified all six patients with chronic osteomyelitis but produced two false-positive results. This study had a sensitivity rate of 100%, a specificity rate of 87.5%, and an accuracy rate of 90.9%.

Conclusion: FDG PET is a highly effective imaging method to exclude osteomyelitis when a negative scan result is obtained. However, positive results can be caused not only by true osteomyelitis but also by inflammation in the bone or surrounding soft tissues as a result of other causes. Overall, FDG PET may prove to be the preferred study in the management of patients with possible chronic osteomyelitis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Chronic Disease
  • Female
  • Fluorine Radioisotopes
  • Fluorodeoxyglucose F18*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Osteomyelitis / diagnostic imaging*
  • Radiopharmaceuticals
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Tomography, Emission-Computed*


  • Fluorine Radioisotopes
  • Radiopharmaceuticals
  • Fluorodeoxyglucose F18