Background: Foot ulcer with suspected infection is one of the most common reasons for hospitalization and a major factor contributing to morbidity and high healthcare-related expenses among diabetic patients. Many patients will require amputation; however, major amputation is associated with an alarmingly high 5-year mortality rate. In this study, we assess the diagnosis and management of suspected foot infection in diabetic patients using dual-isotope (DI) single-photon emission computed tomography/computed tomography (SPECT/CT) compared with conventional imaging.
Methods: The diagnostic accuracy in and management of 227 patients who had undergone DI SPECT/CT was compared with that of 232 similar patients who had undergone conventional imaging including plain radiography, CT, planar bone scanning, planar indium-111 white blood cell scanning, and MRI. The duration of hospitalization was additionally compared between these two groups of patients after excluding patients with other active comorbidities.
Results: Soft-tissue infection, osteomyelitis with or without soft-tissue infection, and other bony pathologies were more accurately and confidently identified with DI SPECT/CT than with conventional imaging. DI SPECT/CT use was associated with significantly fewer major amputations and more selective bony resection as well as with shorter duration of hospitalization when compared with conventional imaging.
Conclusion: In this large population of diabetic patients with suspected foot infection DI SPECT/CT was more accurate in diagnosing and localizing infection compared with conventional imaging. In addition, DI SPECT/CT provided clear guidance and promoted many limb salvage procedures. Of equal importance to health economics, DI SPECT/CT use was associated with considerably reduced length of hospitalization compared with conventional imaging.