It’s a thin line: development and validation of Dixon MRI-based semi-quantitative assessment of stress-related bone marrow edema in the wrists of young gymnasts and non-gymnasts

L. S. Kox, R. B. J. Kraan, V. Mazzoli, M. A. Mens, G. M. J. J. Kerkhoffs, A. J. Nederveen, M. Maas

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Purpose: To assess reliability and clinical utility of evaluating stress-related metaphyseal water distribution using a semi-quantitative Dixon MRI-based method for early diagnosis of physeal stress injuries in adolescent gymnasts. Methods: Twenty-four gymnasts with clinically suspected overuse injury of the distal radial physis, 18 asymptomatic gymnasts, and 24 non-gymnast controls aged 12 ± 1.5 years prospectively underwent hand radiographs and 3T MRI of the wrist including coronal T1-weighted and T2-weighted Dixon sequences. Two raters measured metaphyseal water signal fraction in 13 radial and ulnar regions of interest (ROI). Inter- and intrarater reliability, interslice (between 3 middle radial slices), and inter-ROI (between 3 ROIs on same level) reliability were assessed using intraclass correlation coefficients (ICC). Water signal fractions and their within-person ratios in distal versus most proximal ROIs were compared between groups using one-way analysis of variance. Results: Inter- and intrarater ICCs were 0.79–0.99 and 0.94–1.0 for T1-weighted, and 0.88–1.0 and 0.88–1.0 for T2-weighted Dixon. Interslice and inter-ROI ICCs were 0.55–0.94 and 0.95–0.97 for T1-weighted, and 0.70–0.96 and 0.96–0.97 for T2-weighted Dixon. Metaphyseal water signal fraction in symptomatic gymnasts was higher in six distal ROIs compared with asymptomatic gymnasts and in nine ROIs compared with non-gymnasts (p < 0.05). Metaphyseal water score (ratio of distal versus most proximal ROIs) was 1.61 in symptomatic gymnasts and 1.35 in asymptomatic gymnasts on T2-weighted Dixon (p < 0.05). Conclusion: Semi-quantitative Dixon MRI-based water signal fraction assessment has good to excellent reproducibility and shows increased metaphyseal water scores in symptomatic gymnasts compared with asymptomatic gymnastic peers. Key Points: • The proposed Dixon MRI-based semi-quantitative method for assessment of metaphyseal bone marrow water content is reliable, with off-the-shelf availability and short scan times. • The metaphyseal water score allows comparisons between gymnasts using a within-person reference area for unaffected metaphyseal bone. • As metaphyseal water score was increased in symptomatic gymnasts compared with asymptomatic gymnasts, this semi-quantitative method can potentially be used as an indicator of bone marrow edema in the early diagnosis of gymnastic physeal stress injury.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1534-1543
Number of pages10
JournalEuropean Radiology
Issue number3
Early online date27 Nov 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2020


  • Athletic injuries
  • Growth plate
  • Gymnastics
  • Magnetic resonance imaging
  • Wrist injuries

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