Spontaneous osteonecrosis of the knee (SONK): The role of MR imaging in predicting clinical outcome

Rola Husain, Jared Nesbitt, Dharmesh Tank, Marco Oriundo Verastegui, Elaine S. Gould, Mingqian Huang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background/aim: We try to investigate the association between patterns of imaging findings in patients who had a diagnosis of subchondral fracture around the knee, formerly known as SONK and their clinical outcome. Materials and methods: We retrospectively identified 43 knees of 37 patients (28 males, 15 females) who had diagnosis of subchondral fractures around the knee. The mean age is 56-year-old (range 17–83). Musculoskeletal fellowship trained radiologist evaluated all 43 knee MRI in: 1)location of marrow edema 2)peri-osseous edema; 3) subchondral fracture line; 4) subchondral articular surface contour; 5)meniscal tear and extrusion; 6)adjacent soft tissue edema; 7) joint effusion. Independent clinical chart review was performed for clinical outcome with follow up time average of 13.3 months (range 0–88 months). Bad outcome was defined as worsening on imaging, continued complaint with surgical management and knee replacement or another episode of SONK. Chi-square analysis and Student's T tests were conducted to test the statistical significance of association between MR findings and outcomes. Statistical significance was set at p = 0.05 level. Results: Of 43 knees, 6 patients had another episodes of SONK (14%), 11 patients were not improving or needed injection vs arthroscopy (26%), 4 patients required arthroplasty (9%), 22 patients had no negative outcome (51%). Gender, age, diabetic status, and location of the subchondral fracture show no influence on outcome. Worse outcome group had a significantly higher average BMI (31.7 vs. 28.0, P = 0.02). Positive change of subchondral articular surface contour is the only imaging finding with positive association with worse outcome (80% vs. 39.9%, P = 0.02). Presence of positive findings of above 3), 4), 5) and 6) had higher percentage of bad outcome (77.8%) compared to those with less positive findings (47.2%). Conclusion: MR imaging findings may help at identifying SONK patient with potential risk of developing bad outcome.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)606-611
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Orthopaedics
StatePublished - Nov 1 2020


  • Avascular necrosis
  • Insufficiency fracture
  • MRI
  • SONK

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine


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