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Skeletal Radiol. 2001 May;30(5):247-54.

Subchondral insufficiency fracture of the femoral head: histopathologic correlation with MRI.

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  • 1Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Kyushu University, Fukuoka, Japan.



To correlate the magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) features with the histopathologic findings in subchondral insufficiency fracture (SIF) of the femoral head.


This study was based on a retrospective review of the MRI features and histopathologic findings in seven patients with SIF who had had total hip replacement. Results. In all seven cases, MRI showed a bone marrow edema pattern in the femoral head, and a focal low-intensity band beneath the articular cartilage on some slices (not all) on the T1-weighted images. The shape of the low-intensity band varied: it was irregular and serpentine in four cases, well-delineated, smooth, and a mirror image to the articular surface in two cases, and parallel to the articular surface in one case. On histologic examination, the low-intensity band on MRI corresponded to a fracture line and its associated repair tissue. In all but one case, the band was not visible on T2-weighted or fat suppression images, and the proximal subchondral portion of the lesion had a homogeneous high signal intensity. This region of high signal intensity corresponded histopathologically to viable bone and marrow tissue with associated callus, edema, and vascular granulation tissue.


SIF of the femoral head characteristically demonstrates a low-intensity band on T1-weighted images that corresponds, histopathologically, to a linear subchondral fracture and its associated repair tissue. In most cases, the subchondral portion of the lesion appears on T2-weighted images as an area of homogeneously high signal intensity.

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