Objective: Our aims were to investigate the imaging appearance of subchondral insufficiency fracture (SIF) of the femoral head based on fat-suppressed T2-weighted MRI, and evaluate its correlation with the clinical outcomes following conservative treatment. Materials and methods: We retrospectively evaluated 40 hips in 37 patients with SIF of the femoral head (12 males and 25 females; mean age 55.8 years, range 22–78 years). MRI examinations were performed within 3 months after the onset of hip pain. Using fat-suppressed T2-weighted imaging, we evaluated the hips for the intensity of the subchondral bone (corresponding to the area superior to the low intensity band on T1-weighted images) as well as bone marrow edema, joint effusion, and presence of the band lesion. We then correlated the intensity of the subchondral bone with clinical outcomes. Results: The hips were classified into three types based on subchondral intensity on fat-suppressed T2-weighted images: type 1 (21 hips) showed high intensity, type 2 (eight hips) showed heterogeneous intensity, and type 3 (11 hips) showed low intensity. The mean period between pain onset and MRI examination was significantly longer for type 2 hips than for type 1. Healing rates were 86 % for type 1, 75 % for type 2, and 18 % for type 3. Conclusion: SIF cases were classified into three types based on subchondral intensity on fat-suppressed T2-weighted imaging performed within 3 months after pain onset. Type 3 SIF tended to be intractable to conservative treatment compared to type 1 and type 2.
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