PURPOSE: To determine if fluid-fluid levels on horizontal-beam radiographs of posttraumatic knee joints always represent lipohemarthrosis. MATERIALS AND METHODS: The files of 41 patients with tibial plateau fracture were reviewed retrospectively. Twelve with fluid-fluid levels on radiographs who underwent computed tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance (MR) imaging were selected; CT attenuation and MR signal intensity patterns were used to assess fluid-fluid levels. Simulated hemarthrosis and lipohemarthrosis underwent plain radiography, CT, and MR imaging. RESULTS: Eight patients showed no evidence of fat in the supernatant fluid with either CT (n = 7) or CT and MR imaging (n = 1). Fluid levels resulted from blood separating into cellular elements and supernatant serum. Four patients showed evidence of lipohemarthrosis with either CT (n = 3) or MR imaging (n = 1); in one of these patients, a double fluid-fluid level could be demonstrated retrospectively on plain radiographs. CONCLUSION: Single fluid-fluid levels in posttraumatic knee joints do not necessarily represent a lipohemarthrosis. Double fluid-fluid levels are a more specific finding.
- Joints, fluid
- Joints, injuries
- Knee, fractures
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging