Primary bone marrow oedema syndromes

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MRI scanning in patients with rheumatological conditions often shows bone marrow oedema, which can be secondary to inflammatory, degenerative, infective or malignant conditions but can also be primary. The latter condition is of uncertain aetiology and it is also uncertain whether it represents a stage in the progression to osteonecrosis in some patients. Patients with primary bone marrow oedema usually have lower limb pain, commonly the hip, knee, ankle or feet. The diagnosis is one of exclusion with the presence of typical MRI findings. Treatment is usually conservative and includes analgesics and staying off the affected limb. The natural history is that of gradual resolution of symptoms over a number of months. Evidence for medical treatment is limited, but open-label studies suggest bisphosphonates may help in the resolution of pain and improve radiological findings. Surgical decompression is usually used as a last resort.

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