Despite significant advances in the understanding of its pathogenesis, infection remains a major cause of patient morbidity and mortality. While the presence of infection may be suggested by signs and symptoms, imaging tests are often used to localize or confirm its presence. There are two principal imaging test types: morphological and functional. Morphological tests include radiographs, computed tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging, and sonongraphy. These procedures detect anatomic, or structural, alterations produced by microbial invasion and host response. Functional imaging tests reflect the physiological changes that are part of this process. Prototypical functional tests are radionuclide procedures such as bone, gallium, labelled leukocyte and fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG)-positron emission tomography (PET) imaging. In-line functional/morphological tomographic imaging systems, PET/CT and single photon emission tomography (SPECT)/CT, have revolutionized diagnostic imaging. These devices consist of a functional imaging device (PET or SPECT) joined together with a CT scanner. The patient undergoes both tests sequentially without leaving the examination table. Images from each study can be viewed separately and as fused images, providing precisely localized anatomic and functional information. It must be noted, however, that none of the current morphological or functional tests, either alone or in combination, are specific for infection and the goal of finding such an imaging test remains elusive.
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