The role of subchondral insufficiency fracture in rapid destruction of the hip joint: a preliminary report

Arthritis Rheum. 2000 Nov;43(11):2423-7. doi: 10.1002/1529-0131(200011)43:11<2423::AID-ANR8>3.0.CO;2-Z.


Objective: The pathophysiology of rapidly destructive arthrosis of the hip joint (RDA) is unknown. The purpose of this study was to document cases of subchondral insufficiency fracture of the femoral head, which has similar clinicoradiologic features to those of early-stage RDA.

Methods: This study was based on a retrospective review of 11 cases of subchondral insufficiency fracture of the femoral head that were confirmed histopathologically and for which radiographs both at the onset of hip pain and at the time of surgery were available.

Results: All patients were > 60 years of age (range 61-78 years, mean age 69), and 9 were women. On plain radiographs, the normal joint space had undergone rapid narrowing and/or disappeared within 9 months (mean 5.8 months). Magnetic resonance imaging, available in 2 cases, showed a pattern of bone marrow edema from the upper portion of the femoral head to the intertrochanteric region, with an associated focal low-intensity band on T1 paralleling the articular surface. In all cases, evidence of subchondral insufficiency fracture was confirmed histopathologically. In addition, in the marrow space, there were several round-to-oval granulomatous foci, which consisted of amorphous debris, fragmented bone, and articular cartilage surrounded by reactive histiocytes and giant cells. All 11 patients were osteopenic, as shown both radiologically and histopathologically.

Conclusion: Subchondral insufficiency fracture resulting from osteopenia may lead to a rapid breakdown of the hip joint.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal / therapeutic use
  • Cartilage, Articular / pathology
  • Female
  • Femur Head / injuries*
  • Fractures, Spontaneous / physiopathology*
  • Hip Fractures / diagnostic imaging
  • Hip Fractures / drug therapy
  • Hip Fractures / physiopathology*
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Radiography
  • Spine / diagnostic imaging


  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal