Is hybrid imaging (SPECT/CT) a useful adjunct in the management of suspected facet joints arthropathy?

Int Orthop. 2013 May;37(5):865-70. doi: 10.1007/s00264-013-1811-y. Epub 2013 Feb 15.


Purpose: The purpose of this study was to assess the value of SPECT/CT imaging in patients with chronic spinal pain.

Methods: This was a retrospective consecutive study. Patients with chronic neck or back pain from outpatient spinal clinics with clinical features raising the possibility of a facetogenic pain generator and non-conclusive MRI/CT findings were included. Imaging was performed on a dual-headed, hybrid SPECT/CT γ-camera with a low-dose CT transmission scan acquired after the SPECT study. SPECT/CT studies were viewed in the coronal, axial, and sagittal planes and in 3-dimensional mode. Descriptive statistical analysis was performed.

Results: Seventy-two patients were included (37 females, 35 males, mean age of 53.9 years). There were 25 cervical spine scans and 49 lumbar spine scans. In the cervical spine group, 13 (52 %) patients had scintigraphically active cervical facet joint arthropathy and ten (36 %) had other pathology identified. Two thirds of patients diagnosed with facet joint arthropathy received steroid guided injections following their scans. In the lumbar spine group 34 (69.4 %) patients had scintigraphically active lumbar facet joint arthropathy and eight had other pathology identified. Twenty patients (58.8 %) diagnosed with facet joint arthropathy subsequently received steroid guided injections.

Conclusions: Hybrid SPECT/CT imaging identified potential pain generators in 92 % of cervical spine scans and 86 % of lumbar spine scans. The scan precisely localised SPECT positive facet joint targets in 65 % of the referral population and a clinical decision to inject was made in 60 % of these cases.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Back Pain / diagnosis*
  • Back Pain / etiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intervertebral Disc Degeneration / complications
  • Intervertebral Disc Degeneration / diagnosis*
  • Lumbar Vertebrae
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neck Pain / diagnosis*
  • Neck Pain / etiology
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Tomography, Emission-Computed, Single-Photon / methods*
  • Young Adult
  • Zygapophyseal Joint / pathology*