Radiology: MRI can help reveal risk factors for knee cartilage loss

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MRI can reveal risk factors associated with fast knee cartilage loss in patients with or at high risk of osteoarthritis, according to a study published in the September issue of Radiology.

The participants of the study, conducted by Frank W. Roemer, MD, of the department of radiology at Boston University Medical Center, and colleagues were participants in the Multicenter Osteoarthritis (MOST) study. MOST was a prospective epidemiologic study aimed at identifying risk factors for incident and progressive knee osteoarthritis (OA) in 3,026 persons aged 50–79 years who either had radiographic knee OA or were at high risk for developing the disease.

A total of 347 knees in 336 subjects were included in the study. According to the authors, 65 percent of the subjects were women, had a mean age of 61.1 years, and were—on average—overweight. After a 30-month observation period, 74.1 percent of the knees followed did not show any cartilage loss, 20.2 percent exhibited slow cartilage loss, and 5.8 percent showed fast cartilage loss.

In knees with early structural OA and those at risk of developing it, the authors identified meniscal damage of extrusion of any high-grade MR abnormalities as predictors of fast cartilage loss for the 30-month period. Baseline synovitis and effusion, the authors found, increased the risk of fast cartilage loss, but not significantly.

The authors identified baseline body mass index as the only demographic risk factor for fast cartilage loss—meaning that a preventative measure for avoiding cartilage loss is weight loss and the avoidance of  obesity.

Patients with the above risk factors, the authors concluded, could be ideal subjects for preventative or treatment trials.