Whole-Body Imaging of Multiple Myeloma: Diagnostic Criteria

Radiographics. 2019 Jul-Aug;39(4):1077-1097. doi: 10.1148/rg.2019180096.


Multiple myeloma (MM) is a clonal plasma cell proliferative disorder characterized by primary infiltration of bone marrow and excessive production of abnormal immunoglobulin. This disease is the second most common hematologic malignancy (after lymphoma), and its spectrum of characteristic features are widely known by the acronym CRAB (hypercalcemia, renal impairment, anemia, and bone lesions). Traditionally, the diagnosis and treatment of MM have been triggered by clear end-organ damage. However, owing to recently introduced treatment options that can extend patient survival and the increasing recognition of biomarkers that can be used to identify patients at high risk of progression to active disease, the diagnostic criteria have been revised. Bone disease is one of the most prominent features of MM, and imaging has an important role in diagnosis and follow-up, with each whole-body imaging modality having different indications in distinct disease situations. Skeletal survey has been the standard imaging procedure used during the past decade, but it should no longer be used unless it is the only option. Whole-body low-dose CT is a reasonable and cost-effective initial imaging approach. Whole-body MRI is the most sensitive technique for detecting bone involvement and assessing painful complications. PET/CT is the best tool for evaluating treatment response. The importance of radiologists has increased in this scenario. Therefore, to properly assist hematologists and improve the care of patients with MM, it is essential that radiologists know the updated diagnostic criteria for MM, indications for and limitations of each imaging option, and recommendations for follow-up. Online supplemental material is available for this article. ©RSNA, 2019.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Video-Audio Media

MeSH terms

  • Bone Diseases, Metabolic / diagnostic imaging
  • Bone Diseases, Metabolic / etiology
  • Bone Marrow / diagnostic imaging
  • Bone Marrow / pathology
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Humans
  • Multiple Myeloma / complications
  • Multiple Myeloma / diagnosis
  • Multiple Myeloma / diagnostic imaging*
  • Multiple Myeloma / pathology
  • Neoplasm, Residual
  • Osteolysis / diagnostic imaging
  • Osteolysis / etiology
  • Plasmacytoma / diagnostic imaging
  • Positron Emission Tomography Computed Tomography / methods
  • Positron-Emission Tomography / methods
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Radiopharmaceuticals
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed / methods
  • Whole Body Imaging / methods*


  • Radiopharmaceuticals