The needle and the damage done: musculoskeletal and vascular complications associated with injected drug use
Insights Imaging . 2020 Aug 26;11(1):98. doi: 10.1186/s13244-020-00903-5.
Francis T Delaney, Emma Stanley, Ferdia Bolster
Injected drug use is associated with a wide range of medical complications which are predominantly musculoskeletal and vascular in nature. Illicit drug use is increasing worldwide. Patients with complications of injected drug use often present in a non-specific manner without a reliable clinical history. Musculoskeletal complications are typically infective in aetiology and may vary widely in severity from mild to life-threatening. A multimodal imaging approach is often required for both diagnostic imaging and image-guided sampling. Plain radiographs are often an important initial test, for example in identifying retained needles from injection. Ultrasound and CT play important roles in the assessment of complex soft tissue complications and MRI is the imaging modality of choice for bone and joint disorders. Vascular complications may be venous or arterial in nature and usually occur locally at the injection site. These complications may be related to direct injury to the vessel wall by a needle, or secondary to local infection and inflammation. A multimodal imaging strategy is also often required in the assessment of these vascular complications, typically involving a combination of ultrasound and CT. Familiarity with the multimodal imaging features of the complications related to injected drug use is crucially important as they may be rapidly progressive and life-threatening and require timely diagnosis.
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