Tietze's syndrome is described as the appearance of chest pain caused by swelling of the chondrosternal joints, most frequently involving the upper ribs. The cause is still unknown, and the diagnosis is principally made on clinical grounds. Imaging studies, such as magnetic resonance imaging or computed tomography, are useful in excluding other etiologies or to confirm an ongoing inflammatory process in the chondrosternal joints.
Tietze's syndrome was initially described almost 100 years ago and is an inflammatory process affecting the costochondral cartilages   . The etiology and pathogenesis are yet to be elucidated but it is most frequently diagnosed in adults less than 40 years of age who suffer from numerous conditions of rheumatic and non-rheumatic origin  . Rheumatoid arthritis (RA), seronegative spondyloarthropathies, trauma, various infections (tuberculosis, brucellosis) and malignant diseases (multiple myeloma, chondrosarcomas, local invasion of breast and lung tumors, but also metastatic dissemination) are mentioned as disorders that may cause Tietze's syndrome   . Although it is often mistaken with costochondritis, however, several well-established features distinguish the two clinical entities . The clinical presentation of Tietze's syndrome is demarcated by swelling and tenderness of the costosternal, costochondral and/or sternoclavicular joints, suggesting that the upper ribs are more commonly affected, whereas the manubrium of the sternum and the xiphoid process are rarely involved  . Costochondritis, on the other hand, develops in older adults (> 40 years of age) and without swelling of the adjacent tissues . Moreover, only one costal cartilage exhibits inflammatory changes (either the third or second rib) in 80% of patients with Tietze's syndrome, while multiple sites are affected in more than 70% of patients suffering from costochondritis   . In addition, one of the most important features of Tietze's syndrome is pain at the site of inflammation, which is often aggravated by coughing, deep breathing or lying prone   . Although this syndrome is benign, a relapsing/remitting course is observed, as pain can disappear spontaneously and then reappear and be present for weeks or months, often followed by swelling .
The diagnosis of Tietze's syndrome may be difficult to make without a properly obtained patient history, which provides important clues regarding the onset and course of symptoms. Furthermore, swelling and pain can be assessed only if a thorough physical examination is performed, and the exact location of pain is identified during palpation of the chest wall. Tietze's syndrome is considered to be a diagnosis of exclusion, making imaging studies an essential component during workup . Various techniques have been evaluated for their benefit in diagnosing Tietze's syndrome, including plain radiography, computed tomography (CT) and ultrasonography (US), all showing limited use  . Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and bone scintigraphy, on the other hand, are currently recommended due to their ability to show inflammatory changes in the cartilage, and also because they are able to exclude other etiologies (tumors, abscesses, etc.)  . Certain reports, however, suggest that a biopsy is the only reliable method to confirm the clinical suspicion of Tietze's syndrome, typically revealing nonspecific findings (increased vascularity, patchy loss of ground substance and degenerative changes) on histological examination  .