Radiolabelled white blood cell scintigraphy in the work-up of dermal filler complications

F. R. Grippaudo, M. Pacilio, M. Di Girolamo, R. A. Dierckx, A. Signore*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)


Scintigraphy with radiolabelled autologous white blood cells (WBC) is a widely used method for the detection of sites of infection. In this study we evaluated the role of WBC scintigraphy in the diagnosis and follow-up of patients with suspected soft tissue infection caused by dermal fillers in the face. We compared several qualitative and quantitative interpretation criteria and the results obtained with MRI and high-frequency US (HFUS).

Between 2007 and 2011, ten consecutive patients (all women) aged between 25 and 65 years showing a reaction to dermal fillers were enrolled in the study. In five of these patients WBC scintigraphy was repeated at the end of therapy. Scintigraphy with Tc-99m-HMPAO-labelled WBC was performed in each patient acquiring planar and SPECT images at 3 h and 20 h as well as HFUS with Doppler analysis and MRI with Gd-DTPA. The final diagnosis was determined by fine-needle aspiration and microbiological analysis of lesions in eight patients (before therapy in six and after therapy in two) and by clinical data and follow-up (at least 1 year) in seven patients (before therapy in four and after therapy in three). Two patients were treated with steroids, and the others were treated with antibiotics for 3 weeks. Several qualitative and semiquantitative interpretation criteria were applied to define the best strategy for accurate diagnosis of infections, implemented by SPECT images in patients with doubtful planar scans. The WBC scintigraphy results were also compared with the MRI and HFUS results.

Sensitivity, specificity and accuracy were respectively 90 %, 100 % and 93.3 % for WBC scintigraphy with qualitative and semiquantitative interpretation of planar images and 100 %, 100 % and 100 % with qualitative analysis of SPECT images. Sensitivity, specificity and accuracy for HFUS were 44 %, 66 % and 50 %, and for MRI were 50 %, 100 % and 67.6 %, respectively. Scans performed after therapy in five patients were negative in three and still positive in two (all true results).

In conclusion, scintigraphy with radiolabelled WBC was found to be the most accurate method for diagnosing infection in patients with long-term dermal filler complications, particularly using qualitative analysis of SPECT images. No differences were observed with planar images using either qualitative or semiquantitative analysis. HFUS and MRI may provide additional important information for defining the nature of the filler and for surgery, but are not accurate enough for diagnosing infection.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)418-425
Number of pages8
JournalEuropean Journal of Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Feb-2013


  • Dermal filler
  • Scintigraphy
  • WBC
  • Infection

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