JOURNAL ARTICLE
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MR imaging features of radial tunnel syndrome: initial experience.

Radiology 2006 July
PURPOSE: To retrospectively assess magnetic resonance (MR) imaging features of radial tunnel syndrome.

MATERIALS AND METHODS: Institutional review board approval was obtained, and informed consent was waived for the retrospective HIPAA-compliant study. MR images of 10 asymptomatic volunteers (six men, four women; mean age, 30 years) and 25 patients (11 men, 14 women; mean age, 49 years) clinically suspected of having radial tunnel syndrome were reviewed for morphologic and signal intensity alterations of the posterior interosseous nerve and adjacent soft-tissue structures. MR images of the asymptomatic volunteers were reviewed to establish the normal appearance of the radial tunnel. MR images of the symptomatic patients were evaluated for the following: signal intensity alteration and morphologic alteration of the posterior interosseous nerve; the presence of mass effect on the posterior interosseous nerve such as the presence of bursae, a thickened leading edge of the extensor carpi radialis brevis, or prominent radial recurrent vessels; signal intensity alteration within the depicted forearm musculature such as edema or atrophy; and signal intensity changes at the origin of the common extensor and common flexor tendons, which would suggest a diagnosis of epicondylitis.

RESULTS: All images of volunteers demonstrated normal morphology and signal intensity within the posterior interosseous nerve and adjacent soft tissues. Two volunteers had borderline thickening of the leading edge of the extensor carpi radialis brevis. Thirteen patients (52%) had denervation edema or atrophy within muscles (supinator and extensors) innervated by the posterior interosseous nerve. One patient had isolated pronator teres edema. Seven (28%) patients had the following mass effects along the posterior interosseous nerve: thickened leading edge of the extensor carpi radialis brevis (n = 4), prominent radial recurrent vessels (n = 1), schwannoma (n = 1), or bicipitoradial bursa (n = 1). The rest of the patients had either normal MR imaging findings (n = 4) or lateral epicondylitis (n = 2).

CONCLUSION: Muscle denervation edema or atrophy along the distribution of the posterior interosseous nerve is the most common MR finding in radial tunnel syndrome.

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