What is the role of radiography of the extremities in patients with sickle cell disease (SCD)?

Updated: May 12, 2021
  • Author: Joseph E Maakaron, MD; Chief Editor: Emmanuel C Besa, MD  more...
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Plain radiography of the extremities is useful in evaluating subacute and chronic infarction and in assessing the number and severity of prior episodes of infarction. Plain radiographs are also excellent for evaluating deformities and other complications of bone infarction. Osteonecrosis is visible on plain images only in the later stages after the affected bone is substantially damaged.

In early dactylitis, plain radiographs will show only soft tissue swelling. Periosteal new-bone formation can be seen on radiographs 7-10 days later. Additionally, medullary expansion, cortical thinning, trabecular resorption, and resultant focal lucency may be seen 2-3 weeks after the onset of symptoms, but these findings usually resolve within weeks.

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