MR grading of temporomandibular joint fluid: association with disk displacement categories, condyle marrow abnormalities and pain

T A Larheim, P L Westesson, T Sano
International Journal of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery 2001, 30 (2): 104-12
The purpose of this study was to investigate temporomandibular joint (TMJ) effusion on magnetic resonance (MR) images, and its association with specific categories of disk displacement, bone marrow abnormalities and pain. From a series of 523 consecutive TMJ MR imaging studies of patients referred to imaging because of pain and dysfunction, those with TMJ effusion, defined as an amount of fluid that exceeded the maximum amount seen in a control group of asymptomatic volunteers, were analysed. The selected patients were reassessed and the amount of TMJ fluid was graded bilaterally according to a set of reference films. Other parameters recorded included disk displacement categories and condyle marrow abnormalities. Pain self-records were obtained from the patients immediately before MR imaging. The association between the recorded parameters and TMJ pain was analysed with t-tests and regression analysis. Of the 523 patients, 70 (13%) had TMJ effusion, which was unilateral in 61%. Only 9% of the 70 patients had effusion bilaterally, whereas bilateral disk displacement was found in 80%. In the 76 joints with effusion, 83% showed two specific categories of disk displacement at closed mouth. Condyle marrow abnormalities were found in 31% of the 70 patients, mostly on one side, and in 24% of the 76 joints. An in-patient regression analysis of the side difference in TMJ pain showed that effusion and condyle marrow abnormalities were significant pain-increasing factors. In conclusion, patients with TMJ effusion represent a subgroup with pain and dysfunction with more severe intra-articular pathology than those with disk displacement but no other joint abnormalities.

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