Bone marrow edema is the accumulation of fluid in the bone marrow. Generally, the doctor detects this condition on an ultrasound or MRI and often has a link with a fracture, osteoarthritis or joint injury.
Close look on bone marrow edema in osteoarthritis
In general, the formation of bone marrow edema among those with osteoarthritis is generally a sign that the condition is worsening.
Aside from the buildup of fluid, an MRI detects subchondral cysts. This is the case once the damage on the cartilage starts to solidify and form sacs with fluid inside the joint. In addition, this results to the narrowing of the joint space and cartilage where it wears out further, resulting to the rubbing of the bone against bone.
Furthermore, as more cartilage degenerates, there is exposure of the underlying nerve receptors, resulting to pain and loss of mobility. This is the true for those with knee osteoarthritis.
Can edema occur in injuries?
Generally, bone marrow edema is typically seen in fractures and other serious injuries to the joint or bone, especially those that involve the hip, spine, ankle or knee.
Some of the usual causes of edema include:
- Stress fractures affecting the hip, foot, knee or ankle where repeated impact places continuous strain on the weight-bearing joint
- ACL tears which is evident as bruising and synovitis
- Bone tumors where the buildup of fluid might disrupt with the structural integrity of the bone and increases the risk for a fracture
- Vertebral compression fractures often has a link with advancing age where the spinal bones start to crumble and collapse
- Hip dislocation where the reduced blood supply to the bone can lead to osteonecrosis
Even though some forms of bone marrow edema are hard to manage, those linked with traumatic injury or repeated movement can resolve with adequate rest, pain medications and physical therapy. In severe cases, steroid shots or surgery are necessary.
Overall, bone marrow edema is a confusing condition that affect everyone in a different way. Although it typically settles within 4-12 months after an injury, some cases can last for 2 years or longer.