Skeletal Radiology

, Volume 41, Issue 12, pp 1509–1516

MRI findings of treated bacterial septic arthritis

  • Guillaume Bierry
  • Ambrose J. Huang
  • Connie Y. Chang
  • Martin Torriani
  • Miriam A. Bredella
Scientific Article



The purpose of this study was to report the MRI findings that can be encountered in successfully treated bacterial septic arthritis.

Materials and methods

The study included 12 patients (8 male and 4 female; mean age 38 years, range 9–85) with 13 proven cases of bacterial septic arthritis. The joints involved were hip (n = 3), knee (n = 3), shoulder (n = 2), sacroiliac (n = 2), ankle (n = 1), wrist (n = 1), and elbow (n = 1). MRI examinations following surgical debridement and at initiation of antibiotic therapy and after successful treatment were compared for changes in effusion, synovium, bone, and periarticular soft tissues. Imaging findings were correlated with microbiological and clinical findings.


Joint effusions were present in all joints at baseline and regressed significantly at follow-up MRI (p = 0.001). Abscesses were present in 5 cases (38 %), and their sizes decreased significantly at follow-up (p = 0.001). Synovial enhancement and thickening were observed in all joints at both baseline and follow-up MRI. Myositis/cellulitis was present in 10 cases (77 %) at baseline and in 8 cases (62 %) at follow-up MRI. Bone marrow edema was present in 10 joints (77 %) at baseline and persisted in 8 joints (62 %). Bone erosions were found in 8 joints (62 %) and persisted at follow-up MRI in all cases.


The sizes of joint effusions and abscesses appear to be the factors with the most potential for monitoring therapy for septic arthritis, since both decreased significantly following successful treatment. Synovial thickening and enhancement, periarticular myositis/cellulitis, and bone marrow edema can persist even after resolution of the infection.


Septic arthritis Infection MRI 


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Copyright information

© ISS 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Guillaume Bierry
    • 1
  • Ambrose J. Huang
    • 1
  • Connie Y. Chang
    • 1
  • Martin Torriani
    • 1
  • Miriam A. Bredella
    • 1
  1. 1.Musculoskeletal Imaging and Intervention, Department of RadiologyMassachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical SchoolBostonUSA

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