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Diagnostic and therapeutic impact of SPECT/CT in patients with unspecific pain of the hand and wrist

Florian S Schleich1, Maja Schürch2, Martin W Huellner1, Urs Hug2, Urs von Wartburg2, Klaus Strobel1 and Patrick Veit-Haibach13*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Radiology and Nuclear Medicine, Lucerne Cantonal Hospital, Lucerne, CH-6000, Switzerland

2 Department of Hand and Plastic Surgery, Lucerne Cantonal Hospital, Lucerne, CH-6000, Switzerland

3 Department of Medical Imaging, University Hospital Zurich, Rämistasse 100, Zurich, 8091, Switzerland

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EJNMMI Research 2012, 2:53  doi:10.1186/2191-219X-2-53

Published: 28 September 2012



Unspecific pain of the hand/wrist is a diagnostic challenge. Radiographs and planar bone scan are useful diagnostic tools in patients with unspecific wrist pain. Both modalities are deficient, either by not presenting metabolic disorders or due to inadequate anatomical resolution. Single photon emission computed tomography/computed tomography (SPECT/CT) claims to fuse both features.


Fifty-one patients with persisting wrist pain were referred for evaluation by SPECT/CT. All patients received X-ray and early-phase/late-phase SPECT/CT imaging. SPECT/CT results were compared with X-ray alone and X-ray combined with planar bone scan. The therapeutic impact was evaluated in consensus with the referring hand surgeon.


A total of 48 lesions were detected on plain radiographs, 117 on planar bone scan, and 142 on SPECT/CT. SPECT/CT detected significantly more lesions than the other imaging modalities. In 30 out of 51 patients (61%), a positive concordance between the clinical diagnosis and SPECT/CT findings was found. In 19 out of 51 patients (37%), SPECT/CT findings had significant impact on consecutive therapy.


SPECT/CT showed higher lesion detection rates compared to standard X-rays and planar bone scan. Significant impact on patient management could be demonstrated. SPECT/CT might be added to the workup of such a specific patient population when standard imaging fails to detect the patient's main pathology.

SPECT/CT; Therapeutic impact; Multimodality imaging; Hand and wrist pain