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Diffusion-weighted MRI of bone marrow oedema, soft tissue oedema and synovitis in paediatric patients: feasibility and initial experience

Henning Neubauer1*, Laura Evangelista1, Henner Morbach2, Hermann Girschick3, Martina Prelog2, Herbert Köstler4, Dietbert Hahn4 and Meinrad Beer1

Author Affiliations

1 Institute of Radiology, Department of Paediatric Radiology, University Hospital Wuerzburg, Josef-Schneider-Straße 2, 97080, Wuerzburg, Germany

2 Department of Paediatrics, University Hospital Wuerzburg, Josef-Schneider-Straße 2, 97080, Wuerzburg, Germany

3 Department of Paediatrics, Klinikum am Friedrichshain, Landsberger Allee 49, 10249, Berlin, Germany

4 Institute of Radiology, University Hospital Wuerzburg, Oberduerrbacher Str. 6, 97080, Wuerzburg, Germany

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Pediatric Rheumatology 2012, 10:20  doi:10.1186/1546-0096-10-20

Published: 31 July 2012



MRI has become the mainstay of diagnostic imaging in paediatric rheumatology for lesion detection, differential diagnosis and therapy surveillance. MR imaging of synovitis, in particular, is indispensable for early diagnosis and follow-up in arthritis patients. We used diffusion-weighted MRI (DWI) as a new imaging modality in comparison to standard MRI sequences to study bone marrow oedema, soft-tissue oedema and synovitis in paediatric patients.


A total of 52 patients (mean age 11 ± 5 years) with bone marrow oedema (n = 31), soft-tissue oedema (n = 20) and synovitis (n = 15) were examined with transversal diffusion-weighted single-shot echoplanar imaging in addition to standard MR sequences (T2W TIRM, T1W pre- and post-contrast). Diffusion-weighted images were used for lesion detection and apparent diffusion coefficient (ADC, unit × 10-3 mm2/s) values were measured with ROI technique on ADC maps.


In 50 of 52 patients, DWI delineated the lesion of interest corresponding to pathological signal increase on standard sequences. Mean ADC was 1.60 ± 0.14 (range 1.38 - 1.99) in osseous lesions, 1.72 ± 0.31 (range 1.43 - 2.56) in soft tissue oedema and 2.82 ± 0.24 (range 2.47 - 3.18) for joint effusion (ANOVA p < 0.001). No significant difference in mean ADC was seen for inflammatory vs. non-inflammatory lesions. Relative signal intensity of oedema was similar for DWI and T2W TIRM. DWI visualised synovial restricted diffusion with a mean ADC of 2.12 ± 0.45 in 12 of 15 patients with synovitis.


Diffusion-weighted MRI reliably visualises osseous and soft tissue oedema, as compared to standard sequences. DWI of synovitis is feasible in large joints and presents a novel approach to contrast-free imaging of synovitis. Whole-body DWI for chronic non-bacterial osteomyelitis should be evaluated in future studies.