The value of conventional radiographs for diagnosing internal fixation-associated infection

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Background: The aim of the study is to assess the diagnostic value of preoperative conventional radiographs for diagnosing infection associated with internal fixation devices. Methods: We prospectively collected data of patients undergoing removal of internal fixation devices for any reason. Infection was diagnosed in case of purulence, sinus tract, positive histopathology and/or positive peri-implant tissue or sonication fluid culture. In radiographs radiolucent lines, implant breakage or displacement, or periosteal reaction were assessed. White blood cell count (WBC) and serum C-reactive protein (CRP) were determined at admission. Results: We included 421 surgeries in 380 patients (median age 53.6 years, range 11–98 years), mainly indicated for infection (24.9%), nonunion (20.0%) and symptomatic implants (13.5%). Radiologic signs of infection included radiolucent lines (11.4%); implant breakage (12.4%) or displacement (10.7%); and periosteal reaction (7.1%). Infection was confirmed in 116 cases (27.6%). Only radiolucent lines (OR = 1.86 [95%CI: 1.00–3.38]) and periosteal reaction (OR = 2.48 [95%CI: 1.17–5.26]) were associated with infection, with a low sensitivity (16.4 and 12.1%, respectively), and high specificity (90.5 and 94.8%, respectively). Preoperative WBC and CRP had a sensitivity of 23.0 and 35.3%, and specificity of 91.7 and 89.5%, respectively. Conclusions: Radiological signs suggestive of infection were uncommon. Radiolucency and periosteal reaction were associated with infection, though with low sensitivity.




Li, C., Renz, N., Trampuz, A., & Ojeda-Thies, C. (2021). The value of conventional radiographs for diagnosing internal fixation-associated infection. BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders, 22(1).

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