Enostoses, also known as bone islands, are common benign sclerotic bone lesion which usually represent incidental findings. They constitute a small focus of compact bone within cancellous bone. Enostoses can be seen on radiographs, CT, and MRI, and are considered one of the skeletal “don’t touch” lesions.
The etiology of enostoses is not definitively known. They are most likely congenital or developmental in nature and are thought to represent either hamartomatous lesions or failure of osteoclastic activity during bone remodeling 1.
Although they have at times previously been referred to as benign bone tumors (in part due to occasional increased activity on bone scintigraphy), enostoses have been removed from the WHO classification of bone tumors 2.
Bone islands may occur anywhere in the skeleton, although there is some predilection for pelvis, long bones, spine and ribs.
- osteopoikilosis: multiple bone islands
Plain radiograph / CT
Enostoses are commonly seen as small round or oval foci of dense bone within the medullary space. The appearance of radiating spicules - "thorny radiation" or "fingers" - at the margins that blend with the surrounding trabeculae is classic.
In diaphyseal bone, the long axis of a bone island typically parallels the long axis of the involved bone. In the metaphysis, and other regions where trabeculation is not as linearly organized, the bone islands are typically more spherical.
The size of a bone island is typically <1 cm, although large bone islands may occur, particularly in the pelvis, and when greater than 2 cm in maximal dimension are called giant bone islands 4,8. Sometimes a slow increase in size is seen in bone islands over time.
A sclerotic bone lesion can be diagnosed as a bone metastasis versus bone island if its mean attenuation is < 885 HU and maximum attenuation is < 1060 HU with a 95% sensitivity and a 96% specificity for both values 2.
Low signal intensity on all sequences (compatible with compact bone).
There is usually no technetium-99m MDP uptake, and a normal bone scan can exclude an osteoblastic metastasis or osteosarcoma. However, low-grade scintigraphic activity has sometimes been reported in histologically proven enostoses 3.
Treatment and prognosis
Consider biopsy if the lesion grows 50% in one year or 25% in six months 4.
In the vast majority of cases, bone islands have a pathognomonic appearance. Larger lesions may sometimes pose a diagnostic dilemma, particularly in the setting of known malignancy.
Imaging differential considerations include:
- 1. Greenspan A. Bone island (enostosis): current concept--a review. Skeletal Radiol. 1995;24 (2): 111-5. - Pubmed citation
- 2. Adam Ulano, Miriam A. Bredella, Patrick Burke, Ivan Chebib, F. Joseph Simeone, Ambrose J. Huang, Martin Torriani, and Connie Y. Chang. Distinguishing Untreated Osteoblastic Metastases From Enostoses Using CT Attenuation Measurements. American Journal of Roentgenology 2016 207:2, 362-368.- Pubmed citation
- 3. Greenspan A, Stadalnik RC. Bone island: scintigraphic findings and their clinical application. Can Assoc Radiol J. 1995;46 (5): 368-79. - Pubmed citation
- 4. Greenspan A, Steiner G, Knutzon R. Bone island (enostosis): clinical significance and radiologic and pathologic correlations. Skeletal Radiol 1991; 20:85–90. - Pubmed citation
- 5. Brant WE, Helms CA. Fundamentals of diagnostic radiology. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins. (2007) ISBN:0781761352. Read it at Google Books - Find it at Amazon
- 6. Manaster BJ, May DA, Disler DG. Musculoskeletal imaging. Mosby Inc. (2007) ISBN:0323043615. Read it at Google Books - Find it at Amazon
- 7. Wolfgang F. Dahnert. Radiology Review Manual. (2011) ISBN: 9781496360694
- 8. Trombetti A, Noël E. Giant bone islands: a case with 31 years of follow-up. (2002) Joint bone spine. 69 (1): 81-4. doi:10.1016/s1297-319x(01)00347-5 - Pubmed
Related Radiopaedia articles
The differential diagnosis for bone tumors is dependent on the age of the patient, with a very different set of differentials for the pediatric patient.
- bone-forming tumors
- cartilage-forming tumors
- bizarre parosteal osteochondromatous proliferation (Nora lesion)
- chondromyxoid fibroma
- juxtacortical chondroma
- fibrous bone lesions
- bone marrow tumors
- other bone tumors or tumor-like lesions
- aneurysmal bone cyst
- benign fibrous histiocytoma
- giant cell tumor of bone
- Gorham massive osteolysis
- haemophilic pseudotumor
- intradiploic epidermoid cyst
- intraosseous lipoma
- musculoskeletal angiosarcoma
- musculoskeletal hemangiopericytoma
- primary intraosseous hemangioma
- post-traumatic cystic bone lesion
- simple bone cyst
- impending fracture risk