Bone marrow changes in adolescent girls with anorexia nervosa

J Bone Miner Res. 2010 Feb;25(2):298-304. doi: 10.1359/jbmr.090805.


Early osteoporosis is common among adolescent girls with anorexia nervosa (AN) and may result from premature conversion of red (RM) to yellow bone marrow. We performed right knee magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) on a 1.0 T extremity scanner in 20 patients and 20 healthy controls, aged 16.2 +/- 1.6 years (mean +/- SD). Coronal T(1)-weighted (T(1)W) images and T(1) maps were generated from T(1) relaxometry images. Blinded radiologists visually assessed RM in the distal femoral and proximal tibial metaphyses in T(1)W images using a scale of signal intensity from 0 (homogeneous hyperintensity, no RM) to 4 (all dark, complete RM). Subjects with AN exhibited nearly twofold lower metaphyseal RM scores in both the femur (0.64 versus 1.22, p = .03) and tibia (0.54 versus 0.96, p = .08). In relaxometric measurements of four selected regions (femur and tibia amd epiphysis and metaphysis), subjects with AN showed higher mean epiphyseal but lower metaphyseal T(1). The net AN-control difference between epiphysis and metaphysis was 70 ms in the femur (+31 versus -35 ms, p = .02) and of smaller magnitude in the tibia. In relaxometry data from the full width of the femur adjacent to the growth plate, AN subjects showed mean T(1) consistently lower than in controls by 30 to 50 ms in virtually every part of the sampling region. These findings suggest that adolescents with AN exhibit premature conversion of hematopoietic to fat cells in the marrow of the peripheral skeleton potentially owing to adipocyte over osteoblast differentiation in the mesenchymal stem cell pool.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adiposity
  • Adolescent
  • Anorexia Nervosa*
  • Bone Marrow / diagnostic imaging
  • Bone Marrow / pathology*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Knee / diagnostic imaging*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Osteolysis / diagnostic imaging
  • Radiography