MRI of metatarsal head subchondral fractures in patients with forefoot pain

Martin Torriani, Bijoy J Thomas, Miriam A Bredella, Hugue Ouellette
AJR. American Journal of Roentgenology 2008, 190 (3): 570-5

OBJECTIVE: The purpose of our study was to determine the MRI features of metatarsal head subchondral fractures in symptomatic adults.

MATERIALS AND METHODS: A retrospective review of foot MRI procedures was performed to detect cases of metatarsal head subchondral fractures over a 6-year period. MR images of selected cases were analyzed by two reviewers for the presence of subchondral fracture, marrow edema-like pattern, metatarsal head flattening, and subchondral sclerosis. Patients with a history of foot surgery, infection, or inflammatory arthritis were excluded. Assessment for coexisting osseous and soft-tissue abnormalities was also performed.

RESULTS: Subchondral fractures of the metatarsal heads were seen in 14 patients. All patients were women. The metatarsal head most commonly affected was the second (71%, 10/14) and the dorsal third of the metatarsal articular surface was involved in 79% (11/14). MRI findings of subchondral fracture of the metatarsal head with severe marrow edema-like pattern were seen in 71% (10/14), suggesting early stage changes. Metatarsal head collapse with subchondral sclerosis and mild or absent marrow edema-like pattern were seen in 29% (4/14) indicating late-stage changes. Concurrent abnormalities included three patients (21%) with metatarsal shaft fractures and one patient (7%) with an interdigital neuroma. One subject was treated surgically.

CONCLUSION: Subchondral fractures of the metatarsal heads can be detected on MR examinations of adults with forefoot pain. A subchondral fracture with associated marrow edema-like pattern is the most common presentation and likely reflects early stages of metatarsal head infraction.

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