Imaging of musculoskeletal soft tissue infections

Skeletal Radiol. 2010 Oct;39(10):957-71. doi: 10.1007/s00256-009-0780-0. Epub 2009 Aug 28.


Prompt and appropriate imaging work-up of the various musculoskeletal soft tissue infections aids early diagnosis and treatment and decreases the risk of complications resulting from misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis. The signs and symptoms of musculoskeletal soft tissue infections can be nonspecific, making it clinically difficult to distinguish between disease processes and the extent of disease. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is the imaging modality of choice in the evaluation of soft tissue infections. Computed tomography (CT), ultrasound, radiography and nuclear medicine studies are considered ancillary. This manuscript illustrates representative images of superficial and deep soft tissue infections such as infectious cellulitis, superficial and deep fasciitis, including the necrotizing fasciitis, pyomyositis/soft tissue abscess, septic bursitis and tenosynovitis on different imaging modalities, with emphasis on MRI. Typical histopathologic findings of soft tissue infections are also presented. The imaging approach described in the manuscript is based on relevant literature and authors' personal experience and everyday practice.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Bursitis / diagnosis
  • Cellulitis / diagnosis
  • Fasciitis, Necrotizing / diagnosis
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods*
  • Musculoskeletal Diseases / diagnosis*
  • Pyomyositis / diagnosis
  • Soft Tissue Infections / diagnosis*
  • Tenosynovitis / diagnosis
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed / methods
  • Ulcer / diagnosis
  • Ultrasonography, Doppler, Color / methods