Can Bone Scan Imaging Accurately Detect Osteoporotic Vertebral Compression Fractures?

Illustration of a vertebral fractureWhat is the best method for identifying painful vertebrae in patients with osteoporotic vertebral compression fractures (OVCFs) who cannot have an MRI? A study, “Value of bone scan imaging in determining painful vertebrae of osteoporotic vertebral compression fractures patients with contraindications to MRI,” explores this question, comparing the results of bone scan imaging with x-rays and CT scans. 

The study, which was published in the August 2012 issue of Orthopaedic Surgery, was conducted by researchers at the First Affiliated Hospital of Soochow University in Suzhou, China. The study sample included 23 patients (18 women and 5 men) with OVCFs. The participants were between the ages of 57 and 87, with a mean age of 69.5. All of the patients were diagnosed and treated in the researchers’ hospital between December 2007 and November 2010.

Participants underwent an X-ray, a CT scan, and a bone scan to locate painful vertebral compression fractures caused by osteoporosis in their spines. The bone scan showed fewer fractures than the other procedures; 26 vertebral fractures were found with the bone scan (in 22 of the patients), while the radiological films showed 33 fractures.

To test the effectiveness of the bone scan imaging, the study authors used the bone scan results (instead of the X-ray and CT scan results) to determine the sites for percutaneous kyphoplasty (PKP). The researchers used the Oswestry Disability Index (ODI) and Visual Analogue Scale at several points during the study (before treatment, after treatment, and during follow-up assessments) to determine the effectiveness of the PKP treatment.

The study results showed significant differences in mean VAS and ODI scores before and after PKP was performed. There were no differences found between the post-operative and follow-up scores. According to the researchers, these results indicate the effectiveness of bone scan imaging in locating painful vertebral fractures in patients with contraindications to MRI.

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