This study compared technetium-99m-hexakis-2-methoxyisobutyl-isonitrile (Tc-99m MIBI) with technetium-99m methylene diphosphonate (Tc-99m MDP) to determine whether Tc-99m MIBI could distinguish vertebral metastases from traumatic vertebral fractures. Twenty patients with traumatic vertebral fracture (and no malignant disease) and 14 patients with metastatic vertebral lesions were evaluated. Three to 4 hours after intravenous injection of Tc-99m MDP, images of the vertebrae in all patients were obtained. Corresponding Tc-99m MIBI images were acquired within 4 days after the Tc-99m MDP bone images were obtained. Computed tomography and magnetic resonance imaging demonstrated 24 vertebral traumatic fractures and 44 vertebral metastases. On conventional bone scans, Tc-99m MDP activity was increased in 92% of vertebral fractures and in 100% of vertebral metastases. However, on MIBI scans, no abnormal findings were observed in the vertebrae with fracture, although increased activity was seen in 73% of vertebral metastases. In this study, traumatic vertebral fractures tended to display no pathologic increases in Tc-99m MIBI uptake, whereas bone metastases usually appeared with high uptake. In light of the excellent specificity of Tc-99m MIBI scans compared with Tc-99m MDP bone scans, imaging studies that use Tc-99m MIBI scans may play an important complementary role in differentiating vertebral metastases from traumatic vertebral fractures.