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Ribbing disease (multiple diaphyseal sclerosis): imaging and differential diagnosis.



This study describes the clinical presentation and the course of Ribbing disease in six patients and illustrates imaging features on plain radiography, conventional and computed tomography, and 99mTc-methylene diphosphonate bone scans.

Materials and methods

Between 1982 and 1990, six female patients presented with painful bony lesions that were believed to be Ribbing disease. Ten bones were affected: both tibiae in three patients, a unilateral tibia in one, both femora in one, and a unilateral femur in one. Plain radiographs and either conventional or computed tomography were available for all patients and 99mTc-methylene diphosphonate bone scans, for five patients. All patients underwent open biopsy and/or surgical decompression.


The diagnosis was reached in all patients through a combination of clinical findings (lack of systemic signs of infection or laboratory values suggesting metabolic bone disease), imaging, histologic evaluation, and specimen cultures. Radiographs and tomographic studies showed benign-appearing endosteal and periosteal cortical thickening. Intense uptake of radionuclide tracer was confined to the shaft of all involved bones. All pathologic specimens revealed nonspecific changes that included a slow increase in the mass of cortical and endosteal bone. These specimens also assisted in excluding neoplastic or infectious causes for the new bone formation.


Ribbing disease is a rare disorder that, on imaging studies, may simulate stress fracture, chronic infection, bone-forming neoplasia, or a systemic metabolic or endocrine disorder. Clinical and imaging features may suggest the correct diagnosis.

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