March 21, 2013

Sternal Osteomyelitis

Chest radiograph of a patient who had sternal pain, fever and discharge shows no obvious bony abnormality.

Sagittal STIR and coronal T1W MR images demonstrate bone marrow edema with soft tissue changes in the sternum and right sternoclavicular joint (arrows). 


  • Uncommon infection of the sternum and sternoclavicular joint
  • Usually affecting drug addicts, individuals with history of recent subclavian catheter placement, and patients with chronic debilitating illnesses
  • Inciting organisms vary widely depending on demographics
  • High failure rates of medical treatment alone. Typical treatment includes surgical debridement and en bloc removal
  • Radiograph is rarely helpful
  • CT may show bone destruction but this may be late because damage begins in the joint. Surrounding soft tissue abnormalities are often a useful sign.
  • MRI much more sensitive to detect joint and bone changes that are similar in findings to other areas of bone/joint infection
Shields TW et al. General Thoracic Surgery, 7th edition, 2009.

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