Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) has been recognized as the most accurate imaging modality for the detection of diabetic foot osteomyelitis. However, how accurately MRI displays the extent of diabetic foot osteomyelitis in the presence of ischemia is still unclear. We retrospectively compared the preoperative MRI findings with the results of histopathologic examinations of resected bones and studied the efficacy of MRI in the diagnosis of diabetic foot osteomyelitis of different etiologies. A total 104 bones from 18 foot ulcers in 16 diabetic patients (10 men and 6 women; age range 42 to 84 years) treated by surgical intervention from 2008 to 2012 was examined. In 8 neuropathic ulcers, 29 bones were accurately diagnosed in detail using MRI, even those with severe soft tissue infection. Of 75 bones in 10 ischemic ulcers, only 7 bones evaluated by MRI after revascularization were diagnosed accurately; the other 68 could not be diagnosed because of unclear or equivocal MRI findings. On histopathologic examination, all the bones were found to be infected through the bone cortex by the surrounding infected soft tissue, not directly by articulation. Overall, preoperative MRI is effective in the diagnosis of neuropathic ulcers, but less so of ischemic ones.
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