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Radiology. 1989 Apr;171(1):135-40.

Femoral capital osteonecrosis: MR finding of diffuse marrow abnormalities without focal lesions.

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Department of Diagnostic Radiology, Rush-Presbyterian-St Luke's Medical Center, Chicago, IL 60612.


Six painful hips in five patients were examined with magnetic resonance (MR) imaging and were found to have diffuse signal abnormalities in the marrow of the femoral head and neck, which extended into the intertrochanteric area in five cases. The abnormal regions were low in signal intensity on images obtained with a short repetition time (TR) and a short echo time (TE) and were isointense or hyperintense on long TR/TE images--findings that have been attributed by others to bone marrow edema. Edema was also seen in marrow just above the acetabulum in two cases. No focal abnormalities characteristic of osteonecrosis were seen. Osteonecrosis was subsequently shown to be present in all six femoral heads at core biopsy (three cases) or by subsequent development of focal MR abnormalities reported to be highly specific for osteonecrosis (three cases). The affected hips had been radiographically normal or subtly osteopenic and had shown intense radionuclide uptake in the femoral head at scintigraphy, with lesser abnormality in the neck and intertrochanteric region. Follow-up MR examinations of five of the six femoral heads showed the diffuse abnormalities to have been transient. Although diffuse MR abnormalities in the proximal femur are not specific, they may indicate the presence of osteonecrosis of the femoral head.

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