What is Bone Marrow Edema? Better Ways to Treat

Bone Marrow Edema or BME happens when excess fluids accumulate in some structures of bones. Several reasons cause BME. Fluids might enter the bone after fatal accidents or severe injury. Other diseases like tumors and osteoporosis might also lead to Bone Marrow Edema. But before answering what is bone marrow Edema, let us find what bone marrow is.

Bone Marrows are flexible and spongy structures that are found inside bones. Bone Marrows are responsible for the formation of White Blood Cells, Red Blood Cells, and Platelets. These, in turn, perform many vital functions such as oxygen transportation, blood clotting at the spot of injury to prevent excess blood flow, and fighting infections.

Bone Marrow Edema

Causes of Bone Marrow Edema

Many reasons might lead to BME. Some of the causes are mentioned below:

  • Stress Fractures: Stress Fractures happen when there is continuous pressure on the bones. This might happen due to outdoor activities like competitive dancing, running, or weightlifting.
  • Arthritis: Bone Marrow Edema is seen frequently in people who have arthritis. BME is prominent in both types of arthritis – non-inflammatory and inflammatory. BME occurs mainly due to cellular infiltration in the bone.
  • Cancer: Metastatic tumors might lead to higher production of water in the bone. This leads to BME.
  • Bone infection: Bone infections can also lead to the rising of water in the bone. Although, edema, in this case, cures once the infection is gone.
  • Osteoporosis: This condition leads to the weakening of bones. When bones become fragile, chances of BME increase, this mainly leads to Bone Marrow Edema knee.

There are other reasons too that might lead to BME such as

  • Ligament injury
  • Bone Bruises
  • Joint disorders like Osteoporosis and Osteoarthritis.
  • Other medical conditions, like lining joints, synovial membrane inflation, etc.
  • Bone tumors

bone marrow edema knee

Common locations of Bone Marrow Edema 

BME in the knees is ubiquitous. However, there are other locations too where BME happen prominently like

  • Hip
  • Hind Foot
  • Ankle

Bone Marrow Edema Foot is also very prominent that happens due to foot injury, stress Fracture, etc.

Symptoms of Bone Marrow Edema

Symptoms of BME included pain in the bone that’s affected. Some people also experience dysfunctioning of the joint or bone which occurs due to excess fluid accumulation.

However, in some cases, the body might not show any symptoms at all. Some people experience no pain, while some have to deal with unbearable pain. This depends on the causes that lead to BME. 

Bone Marrow Edema Diagnosis

Bone Marrow Edema is generally diagnosed via MRI, i.e. Magnetic Resonance Imaging. MRI scanners use radio waves and magnetic fields to get the images of the organs inside our bodies. Bone Marrow Edema can be diagnosed only through this method. CT scans or X Rays fail to detect Bone Marrow Edema. Heavy inflation in the blood tests is also a sign of Bone Marrow Edema although, it’s not a confirmation. You should probably see a doctor in such a case to get an MRI.

Bone Marrow Edema Treatment

In most cases, Bone Marrow Edema gets cured with therapy, rest, or pain medicines such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or NSAIDs. However, this will not happen in a day or two. Several months of rest can only help in curing BME.

If Bone Marrow Edema is not cured even after continued rest or therapy, that is a sign that it is a severe case of BME. In such circumstances, your doctor would probably recommend other medications and surgery. A prevalent method is core depression surgery. In core depression surgery, holes are drilled in the bones that are affected. This process releases the pressure, and it will reduce the pain. After that, the surgeon will fill in the drilled holes with bone graft material or stem cells. This will ensure that you have healthy bone marrow.

It is imperative to detect BME at early stages. In case there are any other diseases like arthritis, cancer, infection, or stress fracture, BME’s detection becomes all the more critical. Edema helps the doctor in knowing the origin of the pain, and it also tells the strength of the bones. Knowing these things helps a doctor to carry on with effective treatment.

If you come to know that you are suffering from BME, then you should ask a few questions from your doctor. Ask the cause of Edema and its treatment. Your doctor will likely recommend therapy and rest initially. If that doesn’t work, the doctor might move one step ahead to recommend medicines or surgery.