The use of 18F-fluoride and 18F-FDG PET scans to assess fracture healing in a rat femur model

  • W. K. Hsu
  • B. T. Feeley
  • L. Krenek
  • D. B. Stout
  • A. F. Chatziioannou
  • J. R. LiebermanEmail author
Original article



Currently available diagnostic techniques can be unreliable in the diagnosis of delayed fracture healing in certain clinical situations, which can lead to increased complication rates and costs to the health care system. This study sought to determine the utility of positron emission tomography (PET) scanning with 18F-fluoride ion, which localizes in regions of high osteoblastic activity, and 18F-fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG), an indicator of cellular glucose metabolism, in assessing bone healing in a rat femur fracture model.


Fractures were created in the femurs of immunocompetent rats. Animals in group I had a fracture produced via a manual three-point bending technique. Group II animals underwent a femoral osteotomy with placement of a 2-mm silastic spacer at the fracture site. Fracture healing was assessed with plain radiographs, 18F-fluoride, and 18F-FDG PET scans at 1, 2, 3, and 4-week time points after surgery. Femoral specimens were harvested for histologic analysis and manual testing of torsional and bending strength 4 weeks after surgery.


All fractures in group I revealed abundant callus formation and bone healing, while none of the nonunion femurs were healed via assessment with manual palpation, radiographic, and histologic evaluation at the 4-week time point. 18F-fluoride PET images of group I femurs at successive 1-week intervals revealed progressively increased signal uptake at the union site during fracture repair. In contrast, minimal tracer uptake was seen at the fracture sites in group II at all time points after surgery. Data analysis revealed statistically significant differences in mean signal intensity between groups I and II at each weekly interval. No significant differences between the two groups were seen using 18F-FDG PET imaging at any time point.


This study suggests that 18F-fluoride PET imaging, which is an indicator of osteoblastic activity in vivo, can identify fracture nonunions at an early time point and may have a role in the assessment of longitudinal fracture healing. PET scans using 18F-FDG were not helpful in differentiating metabolic activity between successful and delayed bone healing.


18F-FDG Positron emission tomography Bone 18F-fluoride ion Fracture nonunion 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • W. K. Hsu
    • 1
  • B. T. Feeley
    • 1
  • L. Krenek
    • 1
  • D. B. Stout
    • 1
  • A. F. Chatziioannou
    • 1
  • J. R. Lieberman
    • 2
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of Orthopaedic SurgeryDavid Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, Center for Health SciencesLos AngelesUSA
  2. 2.The Musculoskeletal Institute, Department of Orthopaedic SurgeryUniversity of Connecticut Health CenterFarmingtonUSA

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