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Use of MR imaging in diagnosing diabetes-related pedal osteomyelitis.

The clinical diagnosis of diabetes-related osteomyelitis relies on the identification and characterization of an associated foot ulcer, a method that is often unreliable. Magnetic resonance (MR) imaging is the modality of choice for imaging evaluation of pedal osteomyelitis. Because MR imaging allows the extent of osseous and soft-tissue infection to be mapped preoperatively, its use may limit the extent of resection. At MR imaging, the simplest method to determine whether osteomyelitis is present is to follow the path of an ulcer or sinus tract to the bone and evaluate the signal intensity of the bone marrow. Combined findings of low signal intensity in marrow on T1-weighted images, high signal intensity in marrow on T2-weighted images, and marrow enhancement after the administration of contrast material are indicative of osteomyelitis. Secondary signs of osteomyelitis include periosteal reaction, a subtending skin ulcer, sinus tract, cellulitis, abscess, and a foreign body. The location of a marrow abnormality is a key distinguishing feature of osteomyelitis: Whereas neuroarthropathy most commonly affects the tarsometatarsal and metatarsophalangeal joints, osteomyelitis occurs distal to the tarsometatarsal joint, in the calcaneus and malleoli. In the midfoot, secondary signs of infection help differentiate between neuroarthropathy and a superimposed infection.

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