Chronic musculoskeletal diseases such as arthritis, malignancy, and chronic injury and/or inflammation, all of which may produce chronic musculoskeletal pain, often pose challenges for current clinical imaging methods. The ability to distinguish an acute flare from chronic changes in rheumatoid arthritis, to survey early articular cartilage breakdown, to distinguish sarcomatous recurrence from posttherapeutic inflammation, and to directly identify generators of chronic pain are a few examples of current diagnostic limitations. There is hope that a growing field known as molecular imaging will provide solutions to these diagnostic puzzles. These techniques aim to depict, noninvasively, specific abnormal cellular, molecular, and physiologic events associated with these and other diseases. For example, the presence and mobilization of specific cell populations can be monitored with molecular imaging. Cellular metabolism, stress, and apoptosis can also be followed. Furthermore, disease-specific molecules can be targeted, and particular gene-related events can be assayed in living subjects. Relatively recent molecular and cellular imaging protocols confirm important advances in imaging technology, engineering, chemistry, molecular biology, and genetics that have coalesced into a multidisciplinary and multimodality effort. Molecular probes are currently being developed not only for radionuclide-based techniques but also for magnetic resonance (MR) imaging, MR spectroscopy, ultrasonography, and the emerging field of optical imaging. Furthermore, molecular imaging is facilitating the development of molecular therapies and gene therapy, because molecular imaging makes it possible to noninvasively track and monitor targeted molecular therapies. Implementation of molecular imaging procedures will be essential to a clinical imaging practice. With this in mind, the goal of the following discussion is to promote a better understanding of how such procedures may help address specific musculoskeletal issues, both now and in the years ahead.
View details for DOI 10.1148/radiol.2443060295
View details for Web of Science ID 000248993500006
View details for PubMedID 17709823