How accurate is dimercaptosuccinic acid scintigraphy for the diagnosis of acute pyelonephritis? A meta-analysis of experimental studies

Jonathan C. Craig, Danielle M. Wheeler, Les Irwig, Robert B. Howman-Giles

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

61 Citations (Scopus)


The purpose of this study was to evaluate the performance of dimercaptosuccinic acid (DMSA) scintigraphy in the diagnosis of acute pyelonephritis and to compare the test performance of the standard technique, planar DMSA, with the newly introduced technique, SPECT DMSA. Methods: All published animal studies in which DMSA scintigraphy was compared with histopathology, the reference standard for acute pyelonephritis, were identified using a comprehensive search strategy with the MEDLINE and EMBASE databases. Test performances of all DMSA methods and SPECT versus planar DMSA were analyzed using summary receiver operating characteristic (sROC) curves. Results: Seven studies were identified, including 2 of SPECT DMSA. Problems in study design or reporting were common, with numerical errors in 4 studies. Overall, at a sensitivity of 86%, specificity was estimated to be 91%. Detection of acute pyelonephritis was at a lower threshold for SPECT than for planar DMSA (sensitivity/specificity values of 97%/66% compared with 82%/97%), and the overall test performance of SPECT was not demonstrably better than that of planar DMSA. When applied to a group of children with a prevalence of renal damage of 40%, this means that 98% of children with abnormal planar DMSA scans will have renal damage, whereas only 65% of those with abnormal SPECT scans will have renal damage. Planar and SPECT DMSA will miss 11% and 3% of children with renal damage, respectively. Out of 100 children in the hypothetical group with 40% experiencing renal damage, SPECT will identify 6 extra true cases of renal damage at the expense of 19 extra false positives, when compared with planar DMSA. Conclusion: Published studies of DMSA test performance are few in number and have significant methodologic problems that should be avoided in future studies. DMSA, particularly the planar technique, performs well for the diagnosis of acute pyelonephritis. Using test performance criteria, SPECT DMSA alone has not been shown to be preferable to the established planar method and will result in a small number of true-positives at the expense of a larger number of false-positives.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)986-993
Number of pages8
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2000
Externally publishedYes


  • Diagnosis
  • Dimercaptosuccinic acid
  • Pyelonephritis
  • Sensitivity
  • Systematic review


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