Nuclear Medicine Scans in Total Joint Replacement

J Bone Joint Surg Am. 2021 Feb 17;103(4):359-372. doi: 10.2106/JBJS.20.00301.


»: A 3-phase bone scan is a potential first-line nuclear medicine study for pain after total joint arthroplasty (TJA) when there is concern for periprosthetic joint infection or aseptic loosening.

»: In patients who have a positive bone scintigraphy result and suspected infection of the joint, but where aspiration or other studies are inconclusive, labeled leukocyte scintigraphy with bone marrow imaging may be of benefit.

»: Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), while not a nuclear medicine study, also shows promise and has the advantage of providing information about the soft tissues around a total joint replacement.

»: Radiotracer uptake patterns in scintigraphy are affected by the prosthesis (total knee arthroplasty [TKA] versus total hip arthroplasty [THA]) and the use of cement.

»: Nuclear medicine scans may be ordered 1 year postoperatively but may have positive findings that are due to normal physiologic bone remodeling. Nuclear studies may be falsely positive for up to 2 years after TJA.

»: Single-photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) combined with computed tomography (CT) (SPECT/CT), fluorine-18 fluorodeoxyglucose (18F-FDG) positron emission tomography (PET)/CT, and MRI show promise; however, more studies are needed to better define their role in the diagnostic workup of pain after TJA.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Arthroplasty, Replacement / methods*
  • Hip Joint / diagnostic imaging*
  • Humans
  • Knee Joint / diagnostic imaging*
  • Nuclear Medicine