Purpose: The purpose of this study was to assess the differences in magnetic resonance (MR) findings between the symptomatic and asymptomatic pre-collapse stage of osteonecrosis of the femoral head (ONFH). Materials and methods: This study reviewed 123 consecutive hips in 91 patients in the pre-collapse stage of ONFH based on plain radiographic findings. These 123 hips were divided into symptomatic and asymptomatic groups according to the pain domain score in the Harris hip score system. Bone marrow edema (BME), synovial fluid effusion, and subchondral fracture were evaluated using MR imaging. Odds ratios (ORs) were calculated between these three parameters and symptoms. The subsequent clinical course after MR examination was also assessed for each hip that could be followed more than 1 year. Results: Forty-six hips (37.4%) were categorized as symptomatic and 77 hips (62.6%) as asymptomatic. The prevalence of BME, synovial fluid effusion, and subchondral fracture were 87.0% (40/46), 80.4% (37/46), and 34.8% (16/46), respectively, in the symptomatic group, and 0%, 28.6% (22/77), and 0%, respectively, in the asymptomatic group, indicating significant differences between the two groups (p < 0.0001). Among these parameters, BME showed the highest OR with regard to the presence or absence of symptoms (BME, 965.8; joint effusion, 10.3; subchondral fracture, 83.9). Due to persistent pain and subsequent collapse, 30 of 35 (85.7%) symptomatic hips with BME subsequently underwent surgical treatment at a mean interval of 3.47 months after MR examination, while 25 of 66 (37.9%) asymptomatic hips without BME underwent surgical treatment at a mean interval of 20.7 months after MR examination. Conclusions: This study demonstrated that symptomatic pre-collapse ONFH diagnosed based on plain radiographic findings could be distinguished from asymptomatic pre-collapse ONFH by the presence of BME on MR imaging, and thus BME may be a sign of occult fracture.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging