Objective: Accurate diagnosis of pyelonephritis using clinical and laboratory parameters is often difficult, especially in children. The main aims of this prospective study were to compare the value of different imaging techniques [renal sonography, cortical scintigraphy with technetium-99m dimercaptosuccinic acid (99mTc DMSA) and computed tomography (CT)] in detecting renal involvement in acute urinary tract infections and to determine the sensitivity of DMSA scans for permanent renal scars 6 months later.
Materials and methods: Between February 1992 and January 1993, 55 children admitted to our pediatric unit with febrile symptomatic urinary tract infections were eligible for analysis. Ultrasonography (US), DMSA scanning and micturating cystourethrography were performed in every case. Only 18 children underwent CT. A second DMSA scan was performed in 48 children a mean of 7.5 months after the first.
Results: US abnormalities were found in 25 children (45 %). The first DMSA scan showed a parenchymal aspect suggestive of pyelonephritis in 51 patients (93 %). Among the 18 patients studied by CT, 14 had abnormalities. Normal US findings did not rule out renal parenchymal involvement. Scintigraphy appeared to be more sensitive than CT for renal involvement. The frequency and degree of initial renal parenchymal damage seemed to correlate with vesicoureteral reflux, but the most severe initial parenchymal defects were not associated with marked clinical or laboratory manifestations. Repeat DMSA scans, performed on 45 kidneys with abnormalities at the first examination, showed resolution in 19, improvement in 16, persistence in 8 and deterioration in 2. The prevalence of vesicoureteral reflux was not higher in patients with renal scarring on the second DMSA scan than in patients whose scans showed an improvement.
Conclusion: DMSA scans should be considered as a reference in the detection and follow-up of renal scarring associated with acute urinary tract infection as this technique is more sensitive than US and CT, the latter being unsuitable because it entails radiation exposure and sedation of patients.