Infection and musculoskeletal conditions: Imaging of musculoskeletal infections

Best Pract Res Clin Rheumatol. 2006 Dec;20(6):1197-218. doi: 10.1016/j.berh.2006.08.009.


Imaging procedures are routinely used to evaluate patients suspected of having musculoskeletal infection. Radiographs should be performed whenever musculoskeletal infection is suspected. Even when not diagnostic, radiographs are useful. They provide an anatomic overview of the region of interest, including pre-existing conditions that could influence the selection and interpretation of subsequent procedures. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is sensitive, provides superb anatomic detail, does not use ionizing radiation, and is rapidly completed. This technique is especially valuable for septic arthritis, spinal osteomyelitis, and diabetic foot infections. Among the radionuclide procedures, three-phase bone imaging is readily available, and very accurate in unviolated bone. Labeled leukocyte imaging should be used in cases of 'complicating osteomyelitis' such as prosthetic joint infections. This test is also useful in unsuspected diabetic pedal osteomyelitis and the neuropathic joint. Gallium imaging is a useful adjunct to MIR in spinal infection. 18F-2-fluoro-2-deoxy-D-glucose positron emission tomography (FDG-PET) will likely play an important role, especially in the evaluation of spinal infection.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Arthritis, Infectious / diagnostic imaging
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / diagnostic imaging
  • Diabetic Foot / diagnostic imaging
  • Diabetic Foot / pathology
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Osteomyelitis / diagnostic imaging*
  • Prosthesis-Related Infections / diagnostic imaging*
  • Radiography
  • Radionuclide Imaging
  • Ultrasonography