Normal age-related patterns of cellular and fatty bone marrow distribution in the axial skeleton: MR imaging study

Radiology. 1990 Oct;177(1):83-8. doi: 10.1148/radiology.177.1.2399343.


Knowledge of age-related distribution patterns of cellular and fatty marrow is critical to the interpretation of magnetic resonance (MR) imaging studies. To determine such patterns, the authors retrospectively evaluated 70 examinations each of the skull, cervical spine, thoracic spine, lumbar spine, pelvis, and proximal femur (420 examinations) in patients without known bone marrow abnormality who ranged in age from 6 months to older than 70 years. Two to four distinct patterns were identified in each anatomic area on spin-echo images obtained with a short repetition time and a short echo time. The relative frequency of the patterns for different age groups is consistent with the known physiologic conversion from cellular to fatty marrow with advancing age. Knowledge of these patterns should help in the interpretation of MR images of the axial skeleton.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aging / pathology*
  • Bone Marrow / anatomy & histology*
  • Female
  • Femur / anatomy & histology
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pelvic Bones / anatomy & histology
  • Reference Values
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Skull / anatomy & histology
  • Spine / anatomy & histology