Role of MRI for the diagnosis and prognosis of multiple myeloma

Eur J Radiol. 2005 Jul;55(1):56-63. doi: 10.1016/j.ejrad.2005.01.017.


For the correct staging of patients with multiple myeloma sensitive detection is mandatory in order to estimate prognosis and to decide for adequate therapy. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is superior to radiography for both, focal and diffuse involvement. Five different infiltration patterns can be differentiated: (1) normal appearance of bone marrow despite minor microscopic plasma cell infiltration, (2) focal involvement, (3) homogeneous diffuse infiltration, (4) combined diffuse and focal infiltration, (5) "salt-and-pepper"-pattern with inhomogeneous bone marrow with interposition of fat islands. For the fast and complete assessment of all patterns a combination of a T1-weighted spin echo sequence and a fat suppression technique should be employed. The focal involvement is clearly demonstrated as areas of high signal intensity on, e.g. STIR images. Diffuse involvement is best detected on unenhanced T1-weighted SE sequences and it manifests as homogeneous signal reduction. It can be quantified objectively by calculation of the percentage of signal intensity increase after contrast material injection. With parallel imaging and special coil devices, such as total imaging matrix (Siemens systems, Avanto) a "screening" of the whole red bone marrow as for myeloma infiltration is possible within a reasonable time. Patients without bone marrow infiltration have a significantly longer survival than patients with bone marrow infiltration in MRI at the time of diagnosis. However, even in stage I disease (Durie and Salmon) and negative X-ray films bone marrow infiltration in MRI may be detected in 29-50% of patients. Those patients typically show an earlier disease progression. Recently, MRI has been implemented in the clinical staging of patients with multiple myeloma. MRI may also monitor response to therapy. Signs of good response in cases with focal involvement are: reduction of signal intensity on T2-weighted spin echo images, lack or rim-like enhancement after contrast material injection or even a normalisation of bone marrow signal. In case of diffuse involvement a partly patchy reconversion to fatty marrow can be seen.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Bone Marrow / pathology*
  • Contrast Media
  • Disease Progression
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods*
  • Multiple Myeloma / diagnosis*
  • Multiple Myeloma / pathology
  • Neoplasm Staging
  • Prognosis
  • Sensitivity and Specificity


  • Contrast Media