MRI marrow observations in thalassemia: The effects of the primary disease, transfusional therapy, and chelation
The magnetic resonance bone marrow patterns in thalassemia were evaluated to determine changes produced by transfusion and chelation therapy. Thirteen patients had T1- and T2-weighted images of the spine, pelvis and femurs. Three received no therapy (age range 2.5-3 years). Three were hypertransfused (transfused to maintain a hemoglobin greater than 10 g/dl) and not chelated because of age (age range 6 months-8 years). Seven were hypertransfused and chelated (age range 12-35 years). Signal characteristics of marrow were compared with those of surrounding muscle and fat. Fatty marrow (isointense with subcutaneous fat) was compared with red marrow (hypointense to fat and slightly hyperintense to muscle). Marrow hypointense to muscle was identified as iron deposition within red marrow. The untreated group demonstrated signal consistent with red marrow throughout the central and peripheral skeleton. Hypertransfused but not chelated patients demonstrated marked iron deposition in the central and peripheral skeleton. Hypertransfused and chelated patients demonstrated iron deposition in the central skeleton and a mixed appearance of marrow in the peripheral skeleton. The MR appearance of marrow in thalassemia is a reflection of the patient s transfusion and chelation therapy. Iron deposition occurs despite chelation therapy in sites of active red marrow. As red marrow retreats centrally with age, so does the pattern of iron deposition. The long-term biological effects of this iron deposition are unknown.