Purpose: To correlate magnetic resonance (MR) images of a bone marrow edema pattern with histologic findings in osteoarthritic knees.
Materials and methods: Sixteen consecutive patients (age range, 43-79 years; mean, 67 years) referred for total knee replacement were examined with sagittal short inversion time inversion-recovery (STIR) and T1- and T2-weighted turbo spin-echo MR imaging 1-4 days before surgery. Tibial plateau abnormalities on MR images were compared quantitatively with those on histologic maps.
Results: The bone marrow edema pattern zone (ill-defined and hyperintense on STIR images and hypointense on T1-weighted MR images) mainly consisted of normal tissue (53% of the area was fatty marrow, 16% was intact trabeculae, and 2% was blood vessels) and a smaller proportion of several abnormalities (bone marrow necrosis [11% of area], abnormal [necrotic or remodeled] trabeculae [8%], bone marrow fibrosis [4%], bone marrow edema [4%], and bone marrow bleeding [2%]). The bone marrow edema pattern zone and the zone with a normal MR imaging appearance differed significantly in the presence of bone marrow necrosis (P =.021), bone marrow fibrosis (P =.014), and abnormal trabeculae (P =.011) but not in the prevalence of bone marrow edema (P =.069). Bone marrow edema also was found in zones with an unremarkable MR appearance (perifocal zone, 5% edema; control zone, 2% edema).
Conclusion: A bone marrow edema pattern in osteoarthritic knees represents a number of noncharacteristic histologic abnormalities. Edema is not a major constituent of MR imaging signal intensity abnormalities in such knees.