The role of single photon emission computed tomography in bone imaging

Semin Nucl Med. 2001 Jan;31(1):3-16. doi: 10.1053/snuc.2001.18736.


Single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) of the bone is the second most frequently performed SPECT examination in routine nuclear medicine practice, with cardiac SPECT being the most frequent. Compared with planar scintigraphy, SPECT increases image contrast and improves lesion detection and localization. Studies have documented the unique diagnostic information provided by SPECT, particularly for avascular necrosis of the femoral head, in patients with back pain, for the differential diagnosis between malignant and benign spinal lesions, in the detection of metastatic cancer in the spine, for the diagnosis of temporomandibular joint internal derangement, and for the evaluation of acute and chronic knee pain. Although less rigorously documented, SPECT is being increasingly used in all types of situations that demand more precise anatomic localization of abnormal tracer uptake. The effectiveness of bone SPECT increases with the selection of the proper collimator, which allows one to acquire adequate counts and minimize the patient-to-detector distance. Low-energy, ultrahigh-resolution or high-resolution collimation is preferred over all-purpose collimators. Multihead gamma cameras can increase the counts obtained or shorten acquisition time, making SPECT acquisitions more practical in busy departments and also increasing image quality compared with single-head cameras. Iterative reconstruction, with the use of ordered subsets estimation maximization, provides better quality images than classical filtered back projection algorithms. Three-dimensional image analysis often aids lesion localization.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Back Pain / diagnostic imaging
  • Bone Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging
  • Bone and Bones / diagnostic imaging*
  • Hip Joint / diagnostic imaging
  • Humans
  • Knee Joint / diagnostic imaging
  • Osteoarthritis / diagnostic imaging
  • Osteomyelitis / diagnostic imaging
  • Skull / diagnostic imaging
  • Spine / diagnostic imaging
  • Spondylolysis / diagnostic imaging
  • Technology, Radiologic
  • Tomography, Emission-Computed, Single-Photon / methods*
  • Zygapophyseal Joint / diagnostic imaging