Presumptive subarticular stress reactions of the knee: MRI detection and association with meniscal tear patterns


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Abstract

ObjectiveMRI detects subchondral marrow findings in painful knees which bear resemblance to spontaneous osteonecrosis of the knee (SONK). Gathering evidence suggests that the primary or predominant pathogenesis of these lesions is physical stress. This study analyzes the patient characteristics and meniscal pathology associated with these lesions—herein referred to as “presumptive subarticular stress related” (PSSR) lesions.Design and patientsAll patients were scanned using a standardized imaging protocol. The criterion for a PSSR lesion was a subchondral marrow edema pattern encompassing a more focal, low-signal zone adjacent to or contiguous with the subchondral cortex. Patients were identified using an electronic database search of cases reported by one experienced musculoskeletal radiologist.ResultsTwenty-five PSSR lesions were identified among 1,948 MRI evaluations of the knee. Twenty-one PSSR lesions occurred in the medial compartment, and four occurred in the lateral compartment. There was no sex predilection. Patients with PSSR lesions were older than other patients undergoing MRI evaluation (mean 66 years versus 52 years, P<0.001). Meniscal tears occurred more commonly in cases with PSSR lesions than in the group as a whole (76% versus 45%, P<0.001). Radial and posterior root tears were more common in knees with PSSR lesions than in other knees with meniscal tears (53% versus 26%, P<0.01).ConclusionsPSSR lesions are associated with meniscal tears and, more specifically, with meniscal tear patterns that dramatically increase contact forces across the knee joint. This observation supports the hypothesis that mechanical stress is important in the pathogenesis of these subarticular lesions that are detected by MRI.

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