FDG PET for Differentiation of Infection and Aseptic Loosening in Total Hip Replacements: Comparison with Conventional Radiography and Three-Phase Bone Scintigraphy

PURPOSE: To compare the diagnostic efficacy of fluorine 18 fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG) positron emission tomography (PET) with that of conventional radiography and three-phase bone scintigraphy in patients suspected of having infection in their total hip replacements.

MATERIALS AND METHODS: Thirty-five patients with painful total hip replacements and possible septic prosthetic loosening were examined with FDG PET, conventional radiography, and three-phase bone scintigraphy. PET, radiographic, and scintigraphic images were each evaluated by two independent observers in a blinded fashion. For 32 of 35 patients, serial conventional radiographs were available. Results of microbiologic examinations of surgical specimens represented the standard of reference in 26 patients, and results of joint aspiration plus clinical follow-up of at least 6 months represented the standard of reference in the remaining nine patients. Sensitivity, specificity, accuracy, and interobserver variability (κ) values were calculated. The imaging modalities were compared in terms of diagnostic confidence by using the sign test.

RESULTS: Nine patients had septic and 21 patients had aseptic loosening. In five patients, neither loosening nor infection was confirmed. For diagnosing infection with FDG PET, conventional radiography, and bone scintigraphy, respectively, sensitivity values for reader 1 and reader 2 were 33% and 22%, 89% and 78%, and 56% and 44%, while specificity values were 81% and 85%, 50% and 65%, and 88% and 92% and accuracy values were 69% for both readers, 60% and 69%, and 80% for both readers. PET was significantly more specific (P = .035) but less sensitive (P = .016) than conventional radiography for the diagnosis of infection.

CONCLUSION: In a study population of patients suspected of having infected total hip replacements, FDG PET performed similarly to three-phase bone scintigraphy. FDG PET was more specific but less sensitive than conventional radiography for the diagnosis of infection.

© RSNA, 2004


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Article History

Published in print: May 2004