OBJECTIVE: Assessment of combined semi-axial and semi-coronal SI joint MRI in two cohorts of young athletes to explore frequency and topography of non-specific bone marrow oedema (BMO), its association with four constitutional SI joint features, and potential restriction of false-positive assignments of Assessment of SpondyloArthritis International Society-defined sacroiliitis on standard semi-coronal scans alone.
METHODS: Combined semi-axial and semi-coronal SI joint MRI scans of 20 recreational runners before/after running and 22 elite ice-hockey players were evaluated by three blinded readers for BMO and its association with four constitutional SI joint features: vascular partial volume effect, deep iliac ligament insertion, fluid-filled bone cyst and lumbosacral transitional anomaly. Scans of TNF-treated spondyloarthritis patients served to mask readers. We analysed distribution and topography of BMO and SI joint features across eight anatomical SI joint regions (upper/lower ilium/sacrum, subdivided in anterior/posterior slices) descriptively, as concordantly recorded by ⩾2/3 readers on both MRI planes. BMO confirmed on both scans was compared with previous evaluation of semi-coronal MRI alone, which met the Assessment of SpondyloArthritis International Society definition for active sacroiliitis.
RESULTS: Perpendicular semi-axial and semi-coronal MRI scans confirmed BMO in the SI joint of every fourth young athlete, preferentially in the anterior upper sacrum. BMO associated with four constitutional SI joint features was observed in 20-36% of athletes, clustering in the posterior lower ilium. The proportion of Assessment of SpondyloArthritis International Society-positive sacroiliitis recorded on the semi-coronal plane alone decreased by 33-56% upon amending semi-axial scans.
CONCLUSION: Semi-axial combined with standard semi-coronal scans in MRI protocols for sacroiliitis facilitated recognition of non-specific BMO, which clustered in posterior lower ilium/anterior upper sacrum.