Forefoot Pain Involving the Metatarsal Region: Differential Diagnosis with MR Imaging

Carol J. Ashman, MD ; Rosemary J. Klecker, MD ; Joseph S. Yu, MD

1 From the Department of Radiology, Ohio State University Medical Center, S209 Rhodes Hall, Columbus, OH 43210. Presented as an education exhibit at the 2000 RSNA scientific assembly. Received March 16, 2001; revision requested April 3 and received June 19; accepted July 10.

Many disorders produce discomfort in the metatarsal region of the forefoot. These disorders include traumatic lesions of the soft tissues and bones (eg, turf toe, plantar plate disruption, sesamoiditis, stress fracture, stress response), Freiberg infraction, infection, arthritis, tendon disorders (eg, tendinosis, tenosynovitis, tendon rupture), nonneoplastic soft-tissue masses (eg, ganglia, bursitis, granuloma, Morton neuroma), and, less frequently, soft-tissue and bone neoplasms. Prior to the advent of magnetic resonance (MR) imaging, many of these disorders were not diagnosed noninvasively, and radiologic involvement in the evaluation of affected patients was limited. However, MR imaging has proved useful in detecting the numerous soft-tissue and early bone and joint processes that occur in this portion of the foot but are not depicted or as well characterized with other imaging modalities. Frequently, MR imaging allows a specific diagnosis based on the location, signal intensity characteristics, and morphologic features of the abnormality. Consequently, MR imaging is increasingly being used to evaluate patients with forefoot complaints. Radiologists should be familiar with the differential diagnosis and MR imaging features of disorders that can produce discomfort in this region.