Purpose: To evaluate if osteonecrosis diagnosed on MR images of the knee relates to reduced bone mineral density (BMD) and may be caused by an insufficiency fracture.
Material and Methods: Thirty-two consecutive patients (8 men, 24 women; age range 27–82 years, mean 62 years) with MR findings of osteonecrosis of the femoral or tibial condyle were prospectively included. Trabecular and cortical BMD were measured with high resolution peripheral quantitative CT in the non-dominant distal radius and the tibia of the involved extremity. One tibia was not measured due to posttraumatic deformity.
Results: The mean trabecular BMD of the radius was 81% of the young-adult average peak BMD (range 19–160%). The mean cortical BMD in the radius was 86% (range 63–108%). The mean trabecular BMD in the tibia was 92% (range 28–160%). The mean cortical BMD in the tibia was 86% (range 49–132%). The values of the trabecular bone of the distal radius (tibia) were normal in 11 (15) patients, osteopenic in 12 (4), and osteoporotic in 9 (12), respectively. The cortical bone values of the distal radius (tibia) were normal in 12 (13) patients, osteopenic in 12 (12), and osteoporotic in 8 (6), respectively.
Conclusion: Osteoporosis and osteopenia are commonly found in patients with osteonecrosis of the knee as diagnosed on MR images. This indicates that for some patients an insufficiency mechanism may be responsible for the MR findings. However, in the patients with normal bone density other reasons for osteonecrosis may be present.