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Goller, Sophia Samira; Erber, Bernd; Fink, Nicola; Dürr, Hans Roland; Knösel, Thomas; Ricke, Jens; Baur-Melnyk, Andrea (2022): Hematopoietic islands mimicking osteoblastic metastases within the axial skeleton. BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders, 23: 448. ISSN 1471-2474

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Hyperplasia of the hematopoietic bone marrow in the appendicular skeleton is common. In contrast, focal hematopoietic islands within the axial skeleton are a rare entity and can confuse with osteoblastic metastases. This study aimed to characterize typical MRI and CT findings of hematopoietic islands in distinction from osteoblastic metastases to help both radiologists and clinicians, on the one hand, not to overdiagnose this entity and, on the other hand, to decide on a reasonable work-up.

We retrospectively analyzed the imaging findings of 14 hematopoietic islands of the axial skeleton in ten patients (nine females, median age = 65.5 years [range, 49–74]) who received both MRI and CT at initial diagnosis between 2006 and 2020. CT-guided biopsy was performed in five cases to confirm the diagnosis, while the other five patients received long-term MRI follow-up (median follow-up = 28 months [range, 6–96 months]). Diffusion-weighted imaging was available in three, chemical shift imaging respectively 18 F- fluorodeoxyglucose PET/CT in two, and Technetium 99 m skeletal scintigraphy in one of the patients.

All lesions were small (mean size = 1.72 cm 2 ) and showed moderate hypointense signals on T1- and T2-weighted MRI sequences. They appeared isointense to slightly hyperintense on STIR images and slightly enhanced after gadolinium administration. To differentiate this entity from osteoblastic metastases, CT provides important additional information, as hematopoietic islands do not show sclerosis.

Hematopoietic islands within the axial skeleton can occur and mimic osteoblastic metastases. However, the combination of MRI and CT allows for making the correct diagnosis in most cases.

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