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What is the cause of bone marrow edema?

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Quick Answer

Bone marrow edema occurs as a result of fluid build up in bone marrow, according to Robert J. Daley, M.D. This fluid accumulation is normally caused by an injury, osteoporosis or tumors. Injuries that cause BME may include bone fractures, ligament injuries and bone bruises.

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The most common cause of BME is when a significant injury hits the bone, as fluid build up is the body's normal response to a break. A stress fracture due to osteoarthritis or osteoporosis also leads to fluid accumulation, notes Dr. Howard J. Luks. Bone death, also known as osteonecrosis, occurs when a blood vessel somehow does not supply blood to a bone. This injury, in turn, may cause BME.

Synovitis, or an inflammation of the synovial membrane lining the joints, may also cause BME. Symptoms of this disorder may not be present in some patients, although the most obvious sign is pain in the bone. The severity of pain depends on the type of underlying cause, notes Daley.

The easiest way for doctors to detect BME is an magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI, scan of the affected bone. BME causes bones to appear white in an MRI, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. Bone marrow is a spongy substance inside long bones that produces blood cells for the body.

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