Annals of Indian Academy of Neurology
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Year : 2014  |  Volume : 17  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 135-136

Can residents diagnose this condition on X-ray?

Department of Radiodiagnosis, Vardhman Mahavir Medical College and Safdarjung Hospital, New Delhi, India

Date of Web Publication12-Mar-2014

Correspondence Address:
Binit Sureka
Vardhman Mahavir Medical College and Safdarjung Hospital, Resident Doctors Hostel, Room-57, New Delhi-110 029
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/0972-2327.128589

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How to cite this article:
Malik A, Sureka B, Chandra R, Gupta R. Can residents diagnose this condition on X-ray?. Ann Indian Acad Neurol 2014;17:135-6

How to cite this URL:
Malik A, Sureka B, Chandra R, Gupta R. Can residents diagnose this condition on X-ray?. Ann Indian Acad Neurol [serial online] 2014 [cited 2021 Apr 13];17:135-6. Available from:


With the advent of advanced and overuse of imaging modalities like computed tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), common conditions which were once diagnosed on conventional radiographs are being subjected to unnecessary investigations. We try to highlight two such cases of neuropathic joint disease.

First case is of a 38-year-old man presented with history of gradually progressing painless swelling of left shoulder and elbow. On clinical examination, there were limited movements at these joints and along with atrophy of the thenar and hypothenar muscles.

Radiographs of the left shoulder, elbow, and wrist joint revealed disorganized joint, resorption, dislocation, soft tissue swelling with osseous debris [Figure 1]a and b. MRI of cervical spine revealed Arnold Chiari I malformation with syringohydromyelia from C4 to D7 level with associated basilar invagination and atlanto-occipital assimilation [Figure 2]. Second case is of a 40-year-old female with left elbow swelling, and limited joint movements. X-ray of left elbow revealed similar findings [Figure 3]. MRI of the cervical spine was done which showed syringohydromyelia from C3 to C6 [Figure 4].
Figure 1: (a) X-ray left shoulder and elbow showing resorption and dislocation of upper end of humerus, large periarticular soft tissue swelling, osseous debris, and hypertrophic changes at the elbow joint. (b) X-ray wrist showing heterotopic new bone formation

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Figure 2: (a) T1-weighted (T1W) sagittal magnetic resonance (MR) image of the cervicodorsal spine showing syringohydromyelia, craniovertebral junction anomalies and downward beaking of the cerebellar tonsil. (b) T2W axial MR image of the cervical spine showing widened central canal in the cord suggestive of syringohydromyelia

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Figure 3: X-ray of left elbow showing periarticular soft tissue swelling, large osteophytes, and multiple loose bodies

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Figure 4: T1W sagittal MR image of cervical spine showing syrinx in the cord

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Neuropathic arthropathy refers to the spectrum of changes in joint associated with neurosensory deficit commonly affecting the weight bearing joints. It is relatively uncommon in the non-weight bearing joints of the upper limb. [1] Shoulder is the commonest joint affected in the upper limb, commonly due to syringohydromyelia. Arthropathy of elbow and also involvement of multiple joints is even rarer. Affected joints are also called Charcot joints after Jean Martin Charcot who was the first to elucidate the relationship between neuropathic arthropathy and central nervous system lesions. Two theories have been proposed to explain the pathophysiology: Neurotraumatic theory and neurovascular theory. [1] These lead to bone resorption, weakening, and destruction. Radiologically, two patterns of neuropathic arthropathy are described: (i) Hypertrophic-characterized by joint destruction, fragmentation, osseous sclerosis, fracture, heterotopic bone formation, osteophyte formation, and ultimately fusion. (ii) Atrophic-characterized by substantial bone resorption which may simulate surgical amputation. [2],[3] Fractures may occur spontaneously or following trivial trauma and heal with exuberant and bizarre callus formation. Both types are considered to be just-different stages in the natural course of the disease. Shoulder joint, although the most common involved site in upper limb, is involved in only 5-6% of patients with neuropathic arthropathy. The most common etiologic factor is cervical syringomyelia seen in 75% of cases. Other causes are diabetes mellitus, frequent intraarticular steroid injection, chronic alcoholism, and congenital insensitivity to pain. [2] Neuropathic arthropathy of the elbow is a rare entity that is seen in association with syringomyelia. [4],[5] Even rarer is the involvement of shoulder and elbow in the same patient. Neuropathy in the form of concentric bone atrophy with resultant licked candy appearance or acroosteolysis is more often seen in leprosy, diabetes mellitus, scleroderma, frostbite, etc. Differential diagnosis includes osteoarthritis, bone tumors, tumoral calcinosis, calcium pyrophosphate deposition disease, avascular necrosis, and synovial chondromatosis.

The purpose of this article is to emphasize on the importance of knowledge of the X-ray and MRI findings in neuropathic arthropathy so that unnecessary investigations can be avoided.

   References Top

1.Jones EA, Manaster BJ, May DA, Disler DG. Neuropathic osteoparthropathy: Diagnostic dilemmas and differential diagnosis. Radiographics 2000;20:279-S93.  Back to cited text no. 1
2.Kenan S, Lewis MM, Main WK, Hermann G, Abdelwahab IF. Neuropathic arthropathy of shoulder mimicking soft tissue sarcoma. Orthopedics 1993;16:1133-6.  Back to cited text no. 2
3.Deirmengian CA, Lee SG, Jupiter JB. Neuropathic arthropathy of the elbow. A report of five cases. J Bone Joint Surg Am 2001;83:839-44.  Back to cited text no. 3
4.Ruette P, Stuyck J, Debeer P. Neuropathic arthropathy of the shoulder and elbow associated with syringomyelia: A report of 3 cases. Acta Orthop Belg 2007;73:525-9.  Back to cited text no. 4
5.Nacir B, Cebeci SA, Cetinkaya E, Karagoz A, Erdem HR. Neuropathic arthropathy progressing with multiple joint involvement in the upper extremity due to syringomyelia and type I Arnold - Chiari malformation. Rheumatol Int 2010;30:979-83.  Back to cited text no. 5


  [Figure 1], [Figure 2], [Figure 3], [Figure 4]


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