Bone Marrow Edema Syndrome in the Foot and Ankle

Foot Ankle Int. 2016 Dec;37(12):1364-1373. doi: 10.1177/1071100716664783. Epub 2016 Sep 1.


Bone marrow edema syndrome (BMES) is an uncommon and self-limited syndrome characterized by extremity pain of unknown etiology. Symptoms may include sudden or gradual onset of swelling and pain at rest or during activity, usually at night. This syndrome mostly affects middle-aged men and younger women who have pain in the lower extremities. The most common sites involved with BMES, in decreasing order of frequency, are the bones about the hip, knee, ankle, and foot. The diagnosis of BMES is confirmed with magnetic resonance imaging to exclude other causes of bone marrow edema. The correct diagnosis in the foot and ankle often is delayed because of the low prevalence and nonspecific signs. This delay may intensify bone pain and impair patient function and quality of life. The goal of BMES treatment is to relieve pain and shorten disease duration. Treatment options are limited and may include symptomatic treatment, pharmacologic treatment, and surgery.

Level of evidence: Level V, expert opinion.

Keywords: bisphosphonates; iloprost; pain; transient osteoporosis.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Bone Marrow / diagnostic imaging
  • Bone Marrow / pathology*
  • Edema* / complications
  • Edema* / diagnostic imaging
  • Edema* / therapy
  • Female
  • Foot Diseases* / complications
  • Foot Diseases* / diagnostic imaging
  • Foot Diseases* / therapy
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Pain / etiology