OBJECTIVE: To review the magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) appearance of bone marrow edema (BME) and to discuss the applications of this imaging modality in the diagnosis of associated disorders. A case of BME in the foot is also provided to acquaint the reader with how MRI may assist in establishing a differential diagnosis in patients with normal radiographs and clinical findings that suggest osseous injury.
CLINICAL FEATURES: A 42-yr-old woman suffered from persistent pain along the dorsum of her foot that worsened with jogging. There was foot pronation and palpable pain and swelling at the third tarsometatarsal joint. An MRI was performed, but it was initially misinterpreted. A second review of the MRI examination established the presence of stress-induced BME adjacent to the articular margins of the third tarsometatarsal joint.
INTERVENTION AND OUTCOME: Medical treatment consisted of a cortisone injection into the left third tarsometatarsal joint, which provided transient relief. Chiropractic treatment included flexible custom orthotics prescribed to specifically address her foot pronation. This was the only chiropractic treatment employed.
CONCLUSION: In the presented case, the sensitivity of MRI to stress-induced BME identified the cause of this patient's symptoms and, more importantly, directed management. Because of its ability to demonstrate anatomic and physiologic information, MRI is the ideal imaging modality for assessing suspected injury to the osseous tissues. In patients who relay historical information that suggests chronic or acute osseous injury but demonstrate no radiographic changes to support the clinical suspicion of bony abnormality, an MRI may be indicated to exclude occult injury.