What is the role of radiography and angiography in the diagnosis of frostbite?

Updated: Jul 29, 2019
  • Author: Bobak Zonnoor , MD; Chief Editor: Dirk M Elston, MD  more...
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Answer

Radiography often demonstrates soft-tissue edema but does not distinguish viable from nonviable tissue. Plain radiographs are not useful except to screen for trauma-related fractures or dislocations. They may assist in the diagnosis of long-term complications, such as osteomyelitis.

Angiography often shows slowing of blood flow to the distal vasculature, but this too does not correlate well with eventual tissue loss. When a vasodilator is added, this technique can more accurately predict the final pattern of ischemia that will be observed after 2-3 weeks of observation. In centers using thrombolytics to manage frostbite injuries, angiography is used to identify appropriate patients. Unlike technetium-99m scintigraphy, angiography does not visualize the microcirculation soon after injury.


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