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Clin J Pain. 2010 Mar-Apr;26(3):182-9. doi: 10.1097/AJP.0b013e3181c20207.

Sensitivity and specificity of 3-phase bone scintigraphy in the diagnosis of complex regional pain syndrome of the upper extremity.

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Departments of Pain Management daggerDiagnostic Radiology, Interventional Radiology and Nuclear Medicine, BG-Kliniken Bergmannsheil Bochum, Ruhr-University Bochum, Germany.



Joint and bone alterations are seldom mentioned in the diagnostic criteria for complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) even though they are important for long-term outcome. Altered periarticular bone metabolism can be detected by 3-phase bone scintigraphy (TPBS). Although frequently examining the diagnostic efficacy of TPBS is debatable.


In all, 78 TPBS (45 CRPS/33 control group) were evaluated qualitatively and quantitatively. Sensitivity and specificity of the qualitative blinded reviewer analysis (n=57) compared with quantitative region of interest (ROI)-based analysis over the metacarpophalangeal, proximal, and distal interphalangeal joints (n=74) were evaluated. Patients' sex, age, duration of CRPS, inciting event, extent of joint alteration, and handedness were included as covariables.


Qualitative blinded reviewer TPBS analysis had a high specificity (83%-100%). However, sensitivity was 31% to 50%. Interrater reliability was moderate (kappa score 0.56). Using the ROI-based evaluation, the highest sensitivity (69%) and specificity (75%) (ROI score > or =1.32) was shown for phase 3, whereas sensitivity of phases 1 and 2 rapidly declined to 50%. Duration of CRPS until TPBS was the only variable with significant impact on ROI scores of phase 3 (F=23.7; P=0.000; R=0.42). ROI scores declined with increasing duration of CRPS.


In conclusion, TPBS is a highly specific tool for diagnosing CRPS of the upper limb. ROI evaluation of phase 3 within the first 5 months after onset of CRPS is an appropriate additional diagnostic tool to confirm or exclude CRPS of the upper extremity.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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