Prevalence and clinical significance of residual or reconverted red bone marrow on knee mri

Minh Tu Vo, Ambrish Singh, Tao Meng, Jasveen Kaur, Alison Venn, Flavia Cicuttini, Lyn March, Marita Cross, Terence Dwyer, Andrew Halliday, Graeme Jones, Changhai Ding, Benny Antony

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


Background: Residual/reconverted red bone marrow (RBM) in adult knees is occasionally observed on routine knee magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). We aimed to identify its prevalence, distribution, and associations with lifestyle factors, knee structural abnormalities, and knee symptoms in young adults. Methods: Participants (n = 327; aged = 31–41 years) were selected from the Childhood Determinants of Adult Health (CDAH) knee study. They underwent T1-weighted and proton-density-weighted fat-suppressed MRI scans of knees. Residual/reconverted RBM in distal femur and proximal tibia were graded semi-quantitatively (grades: 0–3) based on the percentage area occupied. Knee structural abnormalities were graded semi-quantitatively using previously published MRI scoring systems. Knee symptoms (pain, stiffness, and dysfunction) were assessed using the Western Ontario and McMaster Universities Osteoarthritis Index (WOMAC) scale during CDAH knee study (year: 2008–2010) and at 6–9-year follow-up during the CDAH-3 study (year:2014–2019). Associations between definite RBM (grade ≥ 2) and lifestyle factors, knee symptoms, and structural abnormalities were described using log-binomial regressions. Results: Definite RBM was seen in females only, in 29 out of 154 cases (18.8%), with femoral involvement preceding tibial involvement. Definite RBM was associated with increased BMI (PR = 1.09/kg/m2; 95% CI: 1.03, 1.16), overweight status (PR = 2.19; 95% CI: 1.07, 4.51), and WOMAC knee pain (PR = 1.75; 95% CI: 1.11, 2.74) in cross-section analysis. However, there was no association between RBM and knee-pain after seven years (PR = 1.15; 95% CI: 0.66, 2.00). There were no associations between RBM and knee structural abnormalities. Conclusion: Presence of definite RBM in young adult knees was observed in females only. Definite RBM was associated with overweight measures, and the modest association with knee pain may not be causally related.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1531
Number of pages11
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2021


  • Knee pain
  • Magnetic resonance imaging
  • Residual/reconverted red bone marrow
  • Young adults

Cite this