Bone abnormalities of the knee: prevalence and significance at MR imaging

Radiology. 1989 Jun;171(3):761-6. doi: 10.1148/radiology.171.3.2717748.


Focal abnormal signal intensity within the distal femoral condyles or proximal tibial plateaus is frequently seen on T1- or intermediate-weighted magnetic resonance (MR) images of the knee. To characterize the prevalence and significance of these findings better, a retrospective study of MR imaging of the knee, performed on the first 434 consecutive patients at a primarily outpatient community MR imaging center, was undertaken. A signal intensity loss demonstrated on images with a short echo time (20 or 25 msec) was divided into three types based on morphologic criteria. A type 1 finding was a diffuse, often reticulated signal intensity loss in the metaphyseal and epiphyseal regions of bone. A type 2 loss was associated with an interruption in the smooth, black cortical line. A type 3 finding was a profound signal intensity loss primarily restricted to the immediate subcortical region. Seventeen percent of all cases revealed a type 1 or 2 loss that may have been compatible with acute bone injuries. These bone lesions were frequently associated with tears of the anterior cruciate ligament and contralateral collateral ligament, but infrequently these lesions were detected with plain radiography and arthroscopy. When associated with a weight-bearing cortex, bone injuries detected with MR imaging may explain clinical symptoms of pain on weight bearing, and type 1 injuries may represent regions of bone at increased risk for the subsequent development of insufficiency fractures if the bone is not adequately protected during trabecular healing.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Arthroscopy
  • Cartilage, Articular / injuries
  • Cartilage, Articular / pathology
  • Femur / injuries
  • Femur / pathology
  • Fibula / injuries
  • Fibula / pathology
  • Humans
  • Knee Injuries / diagnosis*
  • Knee Joint / pathology*
  • Ligaments, Articular / injuries
  • Ligaments, Articular / pathology
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Middle Aged
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Tibia / injuries
  • Tibia / pathology