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World J Radiol


Soon after the introduction of the modern prosthetic joint, it was recognized that radionuclide imaging provides useful information about these devices. The bone scan was used extensively to identify causes of prosthetic joint failure. It became apparent, however, that although sensitive, regardless of how the images were analyzed or how it was performed, the test was not specific and could not distinguish among the causes of prosthetic failure. Advances in anatomic imaging, notably cross sectional modalities, have facilitated the diagnosis of many, if not most, causes of prosthetic failure, with the important exception of infection. This has led to a shift in the diagnostic paradigm, in which nuclear medicine investigations increasingly have focused on diagnosing infection. The recognition that bone scintigraphy could not reliably diagnose infection led to the development of combined studies, first bone/gallium and subsequently leukocyte/bone and leukocyte/marrow imaging. Labeled leukocyte imaging, combined with bone marrow imaging is the most accurate (about 90%) imaging test for diagnosing joint arthroplasty infection. Its value not withstanding, there are significant disadvantages to this test. In-vivo techniques for labeling leukocytes, using antigranulocyte antibodies have been explored, but have their own limitations and the results have been inconsistent. Fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG)-positron emission tomography (FDG-PET) has been extensively investigated for more than a decade but its role in diagnosing the infected prosthesis has yet to be established. Antimicrobial peptides bind to bacterial cell membranes and are infection specific. Data suggest that these agents may be useful for diagnosing prosthetic joint infection, but large scale studies have yet to be undertaken. Although for many years nuclear medicine has focused on diagnosing prosthetic joint infection, the advent of hybrid imaging with single-photon emission computed tomography(SPECT)/electronic computer X-ray tomography technique (CT) and the availability of fluorine-18 fluoride PET suggests that the diagnostic paradigm may be shifting again. By providing the anatomic information lacking in conventional radionuclide studies, there is renewed interest in bone scintigraphy, performed as a SPECT/CT procedure, for detecting joint instability, mechanical loosening and component malpositioning. Fluoride-PET may provide new insights into periprosthetic bone metabolism. The objective of this manuscript is to provide a comprehensive review of the evolution of nuclear medicine imaging of joint replacements.

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