Magnetic resonance imaging-detected avascular osteonecrosis in systemic lupus erythematosus: lack of correlation with antiphospholipid antibodies

Br J Rheumatol. 1998 Apr;37(4):448-53. doi: 10.1093/rheumatology/37.4.448.


We determined prospectively the prevalence of avascular osteonecrosis (AON) by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of both lower limbs in a group of 40 systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) patients, and correlated the results with their serum antiphospholipid antibody (APL Ab) status and their glucocorticoid (GC) intake. APL Ab were detected by anticardiolipin ELISA and by lupus anticoagulant assays. Cumulated prednisolone doses were computed by chart review. The prevalence of AON was 37.5%, with most patients being asymptomatic despite involvement of multiple sites. The number of epiphyseal, metaphyseal and diaphyseal AON sites per patient did not differ between APL Ab-positive and APL Ab-negative patients nor between patients with high and low APL Ab titres. By contrast, a striking correlation was found between the prevalence and severity of AON and GC therapy. In conclusion, this prospective MRI study indicates that the prevalence of AON in SLE patients correlates strongly with GC therapy, but not with APL Ab status.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Female
  • Glucocorticoids / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Leg Bones / blood supply
  • Leg Bones / immunology
  • Leg Bones / pathology
  • Lupus Coagulation Inhibitor / blood*
  • Lupus Erythematosus, Systemic / drug therapy
  • Lupus Erythematosus, Systemic / epidemiology*
  • Lupus Erythematosus, Systemic / immunology*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Osteonecrosis / diagnosis*
  • Osteonecrosis / epidemiology*
  • Osteonecrosis / immunology
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Factors


  • Glucocorticoids
  • Lupus Coagulation Inhibitor