Distal clavicular osteolysis: MR evidence for subchondral fracture

Ara Kassarjian, Eva Llopis, William E Palmer
Skeletal Radiology 2007, 36 (1): 17-22

PURPOSE: To investigate the association between distal clavicular osteolysis and subchondral fractures of the distal clavicle at MRI.

MATERIALS AND METHODS: This study was approved by the hospital human research committee, which waived the need for informed consent. Three radiologists retrospectively analyzed 36 shoulder MR examinations in 36 patients with imaging findings of distal clavicular osteolysis. The presence of a subchondral fracture of the distal clavicle, abnormalities of the acromioclavicular joint, rotator cuff tears and labral tears were assessed by MRI. These cases were then compared with 36 age-matched controls.

RESULTS: At MRI, 31 of 36 patients (86%) had a subchondral line within the distal clavicular edema, consistent with a subchondral fracture. Of the 36 patients, 32 (89%) had fluid in the acromioclavicular joint, while 27 of 36 patients (75%) had cysts or erosions in the distal clavicle. There were 13 patients (36%) with associated labral tears, while eight patients (22%) had partial-thickness rotator cuff tears. In the control group one of 36 (3%) had a subchondral line (P<0.05), while ten of 36 (28%) had rotator cuff tears and 13 of 36 (36%) had labral tears. These latter two were not statistically significant between the groups.

CONCLUSION: A distal clavicular subchondral fracture is a common finding in patients with imaging evidence of distal clavicular osteolysis. These subchondral fractures may be responsible for the propensity of findings occurring on the clavicular side of the acromioclavicular joint.

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