WHAT DOES TERRI'S BONE SCAN MEAN?
A reader asked me to comment on Terri Schiavo's bone scan report.
Here are my initial thoughts:
It is perilous to try and interpret just the bone scan REPORT. I need to see the scan itself and the correlative X-rays.
However, that being said, several things are unusual.
First, the DATE on this bone scan is March 1991. Terri's cardiopulmonary arrest -- as far as I can tell -- was in February 1990; therefore, the abnormalities that are described occured AFTER Terri's February 1990 arrest, probably in the weeks or month(s) just prior to the bone scan, unless she had a second arrest at some point -- and I do not have that history. Certainly there was trauma. As I understand it, the issue is how the trauma occurred.
Trauma from CPR generally involves the anterior aspects of the ribs where they join the sternum. This is usually due to vigorous compression during CPR. Any other proposed trauma during CPR would need to be documented by the notes or by eye witnesses as to the mechanism (e.g.: did she fall off the stretcher?).
The bone scan report of TS describes an injury NOT to the anterior ribs, but, to a different part of the ribs-- posteriorly -- namely at the juncture of the ribs and vertebrae (the costovertebral juncture, or CVJ). In addition, although the report mentions several rib fractures, it does not specify if they were all CVJ located or in different/various locations. This is important. Finally, I do not see a report of correlative x-rays for the ribs, which would be helpful to determine the TIMING of the injury (fractures look very different depending on WHEN they occurred).
The compression fracture of L-1 is interesting. This is certainly NOT a typical injury that occurs during CPR as it generally involves an AXIAL load (i.e. on the top of the head; or from the top DOWN); a caveat here: if TS was anorectic for a prolonged period or on certain medications she could have been osteoporotic, in which case some might claim that a mild compression fracture of L-1 would not be so unusual-- however this is only true in ambulatory people, which Terri was not.
The uptake over Terri's distal right femur is the most peculiar element in this report. This is an unusual finding in ANY situation and I would have to see the scan and films to be sure of what it means; however, if there is PERIOSTEAL ELEVATION then one would have to posit (as did the person who interpreted Terri's bone scan) the possibility of bleeding underneath the thin covering of the bone (the periosteum) which is a finding that correlates highly with trauma, specifically, abuse.
It would be difficult to propose a mechanism that caused this type of problem unless a specific witness arises to declare he or she remembers a specific event that would have caused this UNUSUAL finding.
I would want to know if Terri had a BLEEDING problem at any time, because that might explain this finding.
Certainly IN A CHILD (which Schiavo, obviously was not), the combination of posterior rib fractures, vertebral compression fractures, and distal femoral periosteal elevation is ABSOLUTELY POSITIVELY DIAGNOSTIC for child abuse and any radiologist who missed this diagnosis would be subject to disciplinary action from his peers and state licensing board. SEE: https://radiographics.rsnajnls.org/cgi/content/full/23/4/811
It is my opinion that the most likely reason for these bone scan findings in March of 1991 is that someone either was physically abusing Terri or they dropped/mishandled her severely.
The x-rays might make all of this clearer if we can obtain them.
Teri's fractures could be of the "insufficiency" type (caused by prolonged immobilization/dietary irregularities) and some might posit this explanation; however, in a nonambulatory bedridden patient under careful supervision, I find this untenable, especially given their distribution which are so typical for ABUSE.
Here's the link to the bone scan report: https://www.terrisfight.org/images/bonescan.jpg