Bone scintigraphy and the added value of SPECT (single photon emission tomography) in detecting skeletal lesions

Q J Nucl Med. 2001 Mar;45(1):27-37.


Skeletal metastases are one of the major clinical problems for the oncologist. Over the last several decades bone scintigraphy has been used extensively in detecting bone involvement since it can provide information about disease location, prognosis and the effectiveness of treatment. Bone scan offers the advantage of total body examination, and images bone lesions earlier than other techniques. In this paper the main clinical problems related to the most common applications of bone scan in breast, prostate, lung cancer and other tumours are discussed. The experience carried out at the National Cancer Institute of Milan by using bone SPECT to detect single bone metastases is reported. One hundred and eighteen patients with bone metastases (from different tumour types: breast, lung, prostate, lymphomas, etc.) were studied by planar scintigraphy, SPECT and other radiological modalities (CT, MRI or X-rays). The overall performances of bone SPECT were sensitivity: 90.5% (19/21), specificity 92.8% (90/97), positive predictive value 73% (19/26), negative predictive value 97.8% (90/92), accuracy 92.4% (109/118). Considering breast cancer, the most frequent pathology in our series, and the lumbar spinal tract, the most common skeletal segment involved, the figures of merit of SPECT were: sensitivity 100% (4/4), specificity 95.3% (41/43), positive predictive value 66.7% (4/6), negative predictive value 100% (41/41), accuracy 95.7% (45/47). In conclusion bone SPECT showed very good performances, in particular improving the predictive value of planar scan in the diagnosis of vertebral metastases.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Bone Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging*
  • Bone Neoplasms / secondary*
  • Bone and Bones / diagnostic imaging*
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lung Neoplasms / pathology
  • Male
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / pathology
  • Radiopharmaceuticals
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Spinal Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging
  • Spinal Neoplasms / secondary
  • Technetium Tc 99m Medronate / analogs & derivatives
  • Tomography, Emission-Computed, Single-Photon*


  • Radiopharmaceuticals
  • technetium Tc 99m hydroxymethylene diphosphonate
  • Technetium Tc 99m Medronate