Scintigraphic evaluation of urinary tract infection, pyelonephritis, and renal scarring represents a significant portion of a clinical pediatric nuclear medicine practice. Renal scarring from recurring infection remains an important cause of end-stage renal disease and hypertension in the pediatric population. However, the clinical presentation in infants and young children is often elusive, and clinical diagnosis of upper tract involvement is frequently unreliable. As a result, diagnostic imaging has a critical role to play in the localization of infection to the lower or upper urinary tract. Radionuclide cystography and renal cortical imaging have become mainstays of this evaluation. Direct radionuclide cystography is the preferred cystographic screening technique, because it has lower radiation exposure and greater sensitivity for the detection of vesicoureteral reflux than either indirect radionuclide cystography or fluoroscopic contrast cystogrpahy. Renal cortical scintigraphy has become the standard for the detection of pyelonephritis and renal scarring. Correlation with histopathology has demonstrated a high degree of diagnostic accuracy. Acute pyelonephritis has been shown to be the necessary etiologic factor for the development of subsequent renal scarring, and the mechanism of renal injury in pyelonephritis has been extensively studied in experimental models. The ability of prompt and appropriate antibiotic therapy to dramatically reduce the incidence of subsequent scarring also has been conclusively demonstrated both clinically and in the experimental model. Vesicoureteral reflux was once thought to be a necessary prerequisite for the development of renal scarring. Although it is clear that the intrarenal reflux of infected urine will create pyelonephritis in the experimental model, the high incidence of pyelonepritis and subsequent scarring in the absence of demonstrable vesicoureteral reflux leaves the role of reflux in question. Although the role of vesicoureteral reflux is incompletely understood, its detection nevertheless remains a standard part of the patient's evaluation.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging