The role of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) in the diagnosis of osteomyelitis in foot infections in diabetics was investigated. The accuracy, sensitivity, and specificity of MRI, plain radiography, and nuclear scanning were determined for diagnosing osteomyelitis, and a cost comparison was made.
Twenty-seven patients with diabetic foot infections were studied prospectively. All patients underwent MRI and plain radiography. Twenty-two patients had technetium bone scans, and 19 patients had Indium scans. Nineteen patients had all four tests performed. Patients with obvious gangrene or a fetid foot were excluded.
The diagnosis of osteomyelitis was established by pathologic specimen (n = 18), bone culture (n = 3), or successful response to medical management (n = 6). Osteomyelitis was confirmed in nine of the pathologic specimens. The diagnostic sensitivity, specificity, and accuracy for MRI was 88%, 100%, and 95%, respectively, for plain radiography it was 22%, 94%, and 70%, respectively, for technetium bone scanning it was 50%, 50%, and 50%, respectively, and for Indium leukocyte scanning it was 33%, 69%, and 58%, respectively. The data were analyzed statistically with the two-tailed Fisher's exact test. MRI was the only test that was statistically significant (p < 0.01).
MRI appeared to be the single best test for the diagnosis of osteomyelitis associated with diabetic foot infections. It had a better diagnostic accuracy than conventional modalities and appeared to be more cost-effective than the frequently used Indium scan.
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