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MR imaging of the forefoot under weight-bearing conditions: position-related changes of the neurovascular bundles and the metatarsal heads in asymptomatic volunteers.

PURPOSE: To assess practicability of weight-bearing magnetic resonance (MR) imaging of the forefoot, and to demonstrate position-related changes of the neurovascular bundles and the metatarsal heads in asymptomatic volunteers.

MATERIALS AND METHODS: With an open-configuration MR system, 32 feet of 32 asymptomatic individuals aged 20-60 years were studied in supine and weight-bearing body positions. Transverse T1-weighted spin-echo MR images were performed. MR images were evaluated qualitatively with regard to image quality, visibility, and position-dependent changes of the neurovascular bundle. In addition, the position of the metatarsal heads was analyzed quantitatively.

RESULTS: Weight-bearing MR imaging was feasible in all 32 feet. Quality of MR images obtained in the weight-bearing position was superior to that obtained in the supine position (P < 0.05). A change in the position of the neurovascular bundle from below a virtual line paralleling the plantar cortical line to above this line was present in 50 of 61 instances (82%) between the supine and the weight-bearing positions. When changing from the supine to the weight-bearing position, there was a significant decrease in the distance between the plantar skin and the metatarsal heads for the second (mean 4.5 mm), third (mean 4.4 mm), and fourth metatarsal heads (mean 3.7 mm) (P < 0.0001). However, the difference for the first (mean 0.5 mm) and fifth (mean 0.9 mm) metatarsal heads was not significant.

CONCLUSION: Weight-bearing MR imaging of the forefoot is feasible using an open-configuration MR system and demonstrates position-related changes of the neurovascular bundles relative to the metatarsal heads, as well as position-related changes of the metatarsal heads themselves.

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