Radiographic Musculoskeletal Findings Indicating Opioid Misuse: An Overview for Orthopedic Surgeons

Harry G. Greditzer, Dustin H. Massel, Carlos M. Barrera, Christopher P. Emerson, Michael G. Rizzo, Nisreen Ezuddin, Camila Brasil, Ane Ugarte Nuno, Jean Jose

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Background: Given the high prevalence of musculoskeletal conditions in the USA, it is important for orthopedic surgeons to promptly identify patients who may be at risk for opioid misuse. Questions/Purposes: The aim of this literature review was to elucidate various musculoskeletal pathologies and complications, as seen on imaging, that may indicate opioid misuse or opioid use disorder. Methods: A literature search was conducted using the PubMed, Scopus, and Cochrane Library databases for articles related to imaging findings associated with chronic opioid use or misuse in orthopedic patients. Two independent reviewers conducted the search utilizing pertinent Boolean operations. Results: We reviewed 36 full-text articles and categorized the radiographic evidence of opioid misuse as follows: soft-tissue radiologic findings, cellulitis, necrotizing fasciitis, abscess formation, retained needles, discitis, myopathy and rhabdomyolysis, osteomyelitis, septic arthritis, and septic thrombophlebitis. Conclusion: Knowledge of the radiologic findings of opioid misuse will assist orthopedic surgeons in making timely diagnoses that may alter therapeutic regimens for their patients.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)84-92
Number of pages9
JournalHSS Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 15 2019


  • abscess
  • cellulitis
  • imaging
  • intravenous drug use
  • necrotizing fasciitis
  • opioids
  • orthopedic
  • osteomyelitis
  • rhabdomyolysis
  • septic arthritis
  • septic thrombophlebitis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine


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