Quantitative MRI and spectroscopy of bone marrow

J Magn Reson Imaging. 2018 Feb;47(2):332-353. doi: 10.1002/jmri.25769. Epub 2017 Jun 1.


Bone marrow is one of the largest organs in the human body, enclosing adipocytes, hematopoietic stem cells, which are responsible for blood cell production, and mesenchymal stem cells, which are responsible for the production of adipocytes and bone cells. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is the ideal imaging modality to monitor bone marrow changes in healthy and pathological states, thanks to its inherent rich soft-tissue contrast. Quantitative bone marrow MRI and magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS) techniques have been also developed in order to quantify changes in bone marrow water-fat composition, cellularity and perfusion in different pathologies, and to assist in understanding the role of bone marrow in the pathophysiology of systemic diseases (e.g. osteoporosis). The present review summarizes a large selection of studies published until March 2017 in proton-based quantitative MRI and MRS of bone marrow. Some basic knowledge about bone marrow anatomy and physiology is first reviewed. The most important technical aspects of quantitative MR methods measuring bone marrow water-fat composition, fatty acid composition, perfusion, and diffusion are then described. Finally, previous MR studies are reviewed on the application of quantitative MR techniques in both healthy aging and diseased bone marrow affected by osteoporosis, fractures, metabolic diseases, multiple myeloma, and bone metastases.

Level of evidence: 3 Technical Efficacy: Stage 2 J. Magn. Reson. Imaging 2018;47:332-353.

Keywords: benign and malignant compression fractures; diffusion; fat fraction; multiple myeloma; osteoporosis; perfusion.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Bone Marrow / diagnostic imaging*
  • Bone Marrow Diseases / diagnostic imaging*
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods*
  • Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy / methods*