Lipohemarthrosis - shoulder

Case contributed by Frank Gaillard


Fall and left shoulder pain.

Patient Data

Age: 80 years
Gender: Female

This AP xray of the left shoulder shows a transverse fracture of the surgical neck of the humerus with impaction of fragments. There is inferior displacement of the humeral head on the glenoid. This appearance (pseudosubluxation) is commonly seen in association with fracture and suggests joint effusion. There is a fat-fluid level consistent with a lipohemarthrosis. This indicates the presence of intraarticular injury.

Annotated image

Annotated lipohemarthrosis.

Case Discussion

Lipohemarthrosis seen on plain radiographs is unusual in the glenohumeral joint, although in one series it was seen in 25% of cases. It was first reported in 1962 (compare with 1929 for knee lipohemarthrosis). It is only seen on erect views. Lipohemarthroses have also been described in elbow and hip joints.

Note that a fluid-fluid level may be seen in a simple hemarthrosis on MRI. The upper fluid must show magnetic characteristics of fat (e.g. drop signal on fat-sat sequences) before you can call it a lipohemarthrosis.

Image and description courtesy of: Dr Laughlin Dawes

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