Ten patients with debilitating hip or knee pain were examined with magnetic resonance (MR) imaging. All had conventional radiographs that were either normal or showed nonspecific osteopenia. Nine patients had bone scintigrams that showed focal increased radionuclide uptake in the region of the painful joint. In each case, MR images of the affected joint showed regional decreased signal intensity of the bone marrow on T1-weighted images and increased signal intensity on T2-weighted images. Biopsy results of four patients excluded ischemic necrosis and metastases. The symptoms resolved spontaneously in all cases. The ten patients were followed up for 12-36 months, and there were no recurrences. The authors believe that the findings on MR images represent a transient increase in bone marrow water content. The focal findings on scintigrams confirmed the periarticular distribution of the process and provided evidence of accompanying hyperemia and increased bone mineral metabolism. For lack of a better term and to emphasize the generic character of the condition, the authors termed this condition "the transient marrow edema syndrome."