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MR Imaging of Atraumatic Muscle Disorders


Atraumatic disorders of skeletal muscles include congenital variants; inherited myopathies; acquired inflammatory, infectious, or ischemic disorders; neoplastic diseases; and conditions leading to muscle atrophy. These have overlapping appearances at magnetic resonance (MR) imaging and are challenging for the radiologist to differentiate. The authors organize muscle disorders into four MR imaging patterns: (a) abnormal anatomy with normal signal intensity, (b) edema/inflammation, (c) mass, and (d) atrophy, highlighting each of their key clinical and imaging findings. Anatomic muscle variants, while common, do not produce signal intensity alterations and therefore are easily overlooked. Muscle edema is the most common pattern but is nonspecific, with a broad differential diagnosis. Autoimmune, paraneoplastic, and drug-induced myositis tend to be symmetric, whereas infection, radiation-induced injury, and myonecrosis are focal asymmetric processes. Architectural distortion in the setting of muscle edema suggests one of these latter processes. Intramuscular masses include primary neoplasms, metastases, and several benign masslike lesions that simulate malignancy. Some lesions, such as lipomas, low-flow vascular malformations, fibromatoses, and subacute hematomas, are distinctive, but many intramuscular masses ultimately require a biopsy for definitive diagnosis. Atrophy is the irreversible end result of any muscle disease of sufficient severity and is the dominant finding in disorders such as the muscular dystrophies, denervation myopathy, and sarcopenia. This imaging-based classification, in correlation with clinical and laboratory data, will aid the radiologist in interpreting MR imaging findings in patients with atraumatic muscle disorders. ©RSNA, 2018.

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