Radiological evaluation of postoperative osteomyelitis in long bones: Which is the best tool?
Currently, definitive diagnosis of osteomyelitis involves a combination of clinical signs, symptoms, laboratory tests, imaging modalities and cultures from blood, joint or body fluid. Imaging plays a critical role in the osteomyelitis diagnosis. Each of these tests incurs an additional cost to the patient or healthcare system and their use varies according to the preference of the healthcare professional and the healthcare setup. Imaging plays a critical role in the diagnosis and management of postoperative long bone osteomyelitis, with the aim of reducing long-term complications such as non-union, amputation and pathological fractures. In this review, we discuss the key findings on different radiological modalities and correlate them with disease pathophysiology. Currently, magnetic resonance imaging is the best available imaging modality due to its sensitivity in detecting early signs of long bone osteomyelitis and high soft tissue resolution. Other modalities such as radio-nuclear medicine, computed tomography and ultrasound have been proved to be useful in different clinical scenarios as described in this narrative review.