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Radiographics. 2012 Nov-Dec;32(7):1959-74. doi: 10.1148/rg.327125054.

Diabetic musculoskeletal complications and their imaging mimics.

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Mallinckrodt Institute of Radiology, Musculoskeletal Section, Washington University School of Medicine, 510 S Kingshighway Blvd, Campus Box 8131, St Louis, MO 63110, USA.


Diabetes mellitus is increasingly prevalent and results in various clinically important musculoskeletal disorders affecting the limbs, feet, and spine as well as in widely recognized end-organ complications such as neuropathy, nephropathy, and retinopathy. Diabetic muscle ischemia-a self-limited disorder-may be confused with infectious or inflammatory myositis, venous thrombosis, or compartment syndrome. The absence of fever and leukocytosis, combined with the presence of bilaterally distributed lesions in multiple and often noncontiguous muscles in the legs, including the thighs, is suggestive of ischemia; by contrast, the presence of well-defined intramuscular abscesses with rimlike enhancement favors a diagnosis of infectious pyomyositis. In the diabetic foot, an ulcer, sinus tract, or abscess with an adjacent region of abnormal signal intensity in bone marrow favors the diagnosis of pedal osteomyelitis over that of neuropathic arthropathy. Contrast material-enhanced magnetic resonance imaging is important when planning the treatment of foot infections in diabetic patients because it allows the differentiation of viable tissue from necrotic regions that require surgical d├ębridement in addition to antibiotic therapy. Subtraction images are particularly useful for visualizing nonviable tissue. Dialysis-associated spondyloarthropathy characteristically occurs in diabetic patients with a long history of hemodialysis. Intervertebral disk space narrowing without T2 signal hyperintensity, extensive endplate erosions without endplate remodeling, and facet joint involvement are suggestive of spondyloarthropathy instead of infectious diskitis or degenerative disk disease. Although the clinical features of these conditions may overlap, knowledge of the patient's medical history, coupled with recognition of key imaging characteristics, allows the radiologist to make a prompt and correct diagnosis that leads to appropriate management.

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