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Hell J Nucl Med. 2007 Sep-Dec;10(3):177-80.

Jaw uptake of technetium-99 methylene diphosphonate in patients on biphosphonates: a word of caution.

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Saint Savas Oncology Hospital, Nuclear Medicine Department, 171 Alexandras Ave., PC 115 22 Athens, Greece.


Nitrogen-containing biphosphonates are a group of medications that are increasingly used in the management of Paget's disease, fibrous dysplasia, osteoporosis, multiple myeloma and metastatic prostate or breast cancer bone disease. On 2004 it was established that nitrogen-containing biphosphonates may induce jaw osteonecrosis and since then, a substantial number of publications has supported this finding. Jaw osteonecrosis may be asymptomatic, lasting for about a year or symptomatic, accompanied with mild or severe pain. Jaw osteonecrosis usually results in patients with poor dental hygiene, or subjected to invasive dental procedures. Its incidence increases with the length of nitrogen-containing biphosphonates treatment and appears to be higher for the Zometa(TM) users. It is important to early recognize this entity, since early intervention can make a significant difference to the outcome of this debilitating side effect. We here report three patients who had a positive technetium-99m methylene diphosphonate ((99m)Tc-MDP) bone scan. One of these patients also had osteomyelitis and was treated aggressively. The other two were treated in a more conservative manner. Detailed dental examination supported the scintigraphic findings. Biopsy was performed only in one patient and also offered specimens for antibiotic cultures. In discussion, jaw biopsy is a debatable procedure in the setting of jaw osteonecrosis and many consider that it should be avoided in most cases, except if it is necessary to establish the diagnosis and suggest antibiotic treatment by obtaining samples for bacterial cultures. Although axial tomography and magnetic resonance imaging are useful in defining the extent of the disease, 3-phase (99m)Tc-MDP bone scan is the most sensitive imaging modality pinpointing the disease at its early stages. In conclusion, a 3-phase (99m)Tc-MDP scan with anterior and lateral views of the skull is indicated in all symptomatic or asymptomatic patients, with a history of long-term nitrogen-containing biphosphonate treatment, since this may lead to an early detection of the disease.

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