Brodie abscess

Last revised by Sonam Vadera on 28 May 2023

Brodie abscess is an intraosseous abscess related to a focus of subacute or chronic pyogenic osteomyelitis. Unfortunately, there is no reliable way to radiographically exclude a focus of osteomyelitis. It has a protean radiographic appearance and can occur at any location and in a patient of any age. It might or might not be expansile, have a sclerotic or nonsclerotic border, or have associated periostitis.

Typically a Brodie abscess will present in children with unfused epiphyseal plates, more frequently in boys. 

  • S. aureus (most common); cultures often negative 5

It has a predilection for ends (metaphysis) of tubular bones:

  • proximal/distal tibial metaphysis (most common)

  • femur

  • carpal and tarsal bones

It may rarely traverse the open growth plate and extend to the epiphysis (in children and infants).

  • inflammatory markers (e.g. CRP, ESR) are often normal 5

  • lytic lesion often in an oval configuration that is oriented along the long axis of the bone

  • surrounded by a thick dense rim of reactive sclerosis that fades imperceptibly into surrounding bone

  • lucent tortuous channel extending toward growth plate prior to physeal closure (pathognomonic)

  • periosteal new bone formation +/- adjacent soft tissue swelling

  • may persist for many months

  • central intramedullary hypodense cystic lesion with thick rim ossification

  • extensive thick well-circumscribed periosteal reaction and bone sclerosis around the lesion could be seen

The “penumbra sign” on magnetic resonance (MR) imaging is useful for discriminating subacute osteomyelitis from other bone lesions. The penumbra sign is a rim lining of an abscess cavity with higher signal intensity than that of the main abscess on T1-weighted images which strongly and rapidly enhances after contrast.

The lesion is named after Sir Benjamin Collins Brodie (1783-1862), who initially described a chronic inflammatory process affecting the tibia without acute precipitating factors in the 1830s.

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