Role of MR imaging in chronic wrist pain

Eur Radiol. 2007 Apr;17(4):927-38. doi: 10.1007/s00330-006-0365-4. Epub 2006 Aug 24.


Magnetic resonance (MR) imaging for chronic wrist pain is challenging. Correct assessment of the triangular fibrocartilage, hyaline cartilage, ligaments, and tendons has become mandatory for comprehensive decision making in wrist surgery. The MR technique, potential and limits of MR imaging in patients with chronic wrist pain will be discussed. MR arthrography with injection of gadolinium-containing contrast material into the distal radioulnar joint is suggested for evaluation of the triangular fibrocartilage. The clinically meaningful ulnar-sided peripheral tears are otherwise hard to diagnose. The diagnostic performance of MR imaging for interosseous ligament tears varies considerably. The sensitivity for scapholunate ligament tears is consistently better than for lunotriquetral ligament tears. Gadolinium-enhanced MR imaging is considered to be the best technique for detecting established avascularity of bone, but the assessment of the MR results remains challenging. Most cases of ulnar impaction syndrome have characteristic focal signal intensity changes in the ulnar aspect of the lunate. Avascular necrosis of the lunate (Kienböck's disease) is characterized by signal changes starting in the proximal radial aspect of the lunate. MR imaging is extremely sensitive for occult fractures. Questions arise if occult posttraumatic bone lesions seen on MR images only necessarily require the same treatment as fractures evident on plain films or computed tomography (CT) images. MR imaging and ultrasound are equally effective for detecting occult carpal ganglia. Carpe bossu (carpal boss) is a bony protuberance of a carpometacarpal joint II and III which may be associated with pain.

MeSH terms

  • Bone Marrow / diagnostic imaging
  • Bone Marrow / pathology
  • Chronic Disease
  • Diagnostic Errors* / prevention & control
  • Fractures, Closed / diagnosis
  • Humans
  • Ligaments / diagnostic imaging
  • Ligaments / injuries
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Osteonecrosis / diagnosis
  • Pain*
  • Radiographic Image Enhancement
  • Tendons / diagnostic imaging
  • Tendons / pathology
  • Triangular Fibrocartilage / diagnostic imaging
  • Wrist* / diagnostic imaging
  • Wrist* / pathology