Assessment of successful incorporation of cages after cervical or lumbar intercorporal fusion with [(18)F]fluoride positron-emission tomography/computed tomography


The purpose of this study is to assess the successful incorporation of cages in patients after cervical or lumbar intercorporal fusion with positron-emission tomography/computed tomography (PET/CT). Twenty patients (14 female and 6 male; mean age 58 years, age range 38–73 years) with 30 cervical (n = 13) or lumbar (n = 17) intercorporal fusions were prospectively enrolled in this study. Time interval between last intercorporal intervention and PET/CT ranged from 2 to 116 months (mean 63; median 77 months). IRB approval was obtained for all patients, and written informed consent was obtained from all patients. About 30 min prior to PET/CT scanning, 97–217 MBq (mean 161 MBq) 18F-fluoride were administered intravenously. Patients were imaged in supine position on a combined PET/CT system (Discovery RX/STE, 16/64 slice CT, GE Healthcare). 3D-PET emission data were acquired for 1.5 and 2 min/bed position, respectively, and reconstructed by a fully 3D iterative algorithm (VUE Point HD) using low-dose CT data for attenuation correction. A dedicated diagnostic thin-slice CT was optionally acquired covering the fused region. Areas of increased 18F-fluoride uptake around cages were determined by one double-board certified radiologist/nuclear physician and one board certified radiologist in consensus. In 12/20 (60%) patients, increased 18F-fluoride uptake around cages was observed. Of the 30 intercorporal fusions, 15 (50%) showed increased 18F-fluoride uptake. Median time between intervention and PET/CT examination in cages with increased uptake was 37 months (2–116 months), median time between intervention and PET/CT examination in those cages without increased uptake was 91 months (19–112 months), p (Wilcoxon) = 0.01 (one-sided). 14/29 (48%) cages with a time interval > 1 year between intervention and PET/CT scan showed an increased uptake. In conclusion, PET/CT frequently shows increased 18F-fluoride uptake in cervical and lumbar cages older than 1 year (up to almost 8 years in cervical cages and 10 years in lumbar cages) possibly indicating unsuccessful fusion due to increased stress/microinstability.

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We thank Sabine Knöfel for all technical support.

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None of the authors has any potential conflict of interest .

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Correspondence to Dorothee R. Fischer.

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Fischer, D.R., Zweifel, K., Treyer, V. et al. Assessment of successful incorporation of cages after cervical or lumbar intercorporal fusion with [(18)F]fluoride positron-emission tomography/computed tomography. Eur Spine J 20, 640–648 (2011).

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  • 18F-fluoride PET/CT
  • Cage
  • 18F-fluoride uptake
  • Spine surgery
  • Intercorporal fusion
  • Stress/microinstability
  • Cervical spine
  • Lumbar spine