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Osteoarthritis Cartilage. 2010 Jun;18(6):760-8. doi: 10.1016/j.joca.2009.12.009. Epub 2010 Feb 18.

Magnitude and regional distribution of cartilage loss associated with grades of joint space narrowing in radiographic osteoarthritis--data from the Osteoarthritis Initiative (OAI).

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  • 1Institute of Anatomy, PMU Salzburg, Austria.



Clinically, radiographic joint space narrowing (JSN) is regarded a surrogate of cartilage loss in osteoarthritis (OA). Using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), we explored the magnitude and regional distribution of differences in cartilage thickness and subchondral bone area associated with specific Osteoarthritis Research Society International (OARSI) JSN grades.


Seventy-three participants with unilateral medial JSN were selected from the first half (2678 cases) of the OA Initiative cohort (45, 21, and 7 with OARSI JSN grades 1, 2, and 3, respectively, no medial JSN in the contra-lateral knee). Bilateral sagittal baseline DESSwe MRIs were segmented by experienced operators. Intra-person between-knee differences in cartilage thickness and subchondral bone areas were determined in medial femorotibial subregions.


Knees with medial OARSI JSN grades 1, 2, and 3 displayed a 190 microm (5.2%), 630 microm (18%), and 1560 microm (44%) smaller cartilage thickness in weight-bearing medial femorotibial compartments compared to knees without JSN, respectively. The weight-bearing femoral condyle displayed relatively greater differences than the posterior femoral condyle or the medial tibia (MT). The central subregion within the weight-bearing medial femur (cMF) of the femoral condyle (30-75 degrees ), and the external and central subregions within the tibia displayed relatively greater JSN-associated differences compared to other medial femorotibial subregions. Knees with higher JSN grades also displayed larger than contra-lateral femorotibial subchondral bone areas.


This study provides quantitative estimates of JSN-related cartilage loss, with the central part of the weight-bearing femoral condyle being most strongly affected. Knees with higher JSN grades displayed larger subchondral bone areas, suggesting that an increase in subchondral bone area occurs in advanced OA.

Copyright 2010 Osteoarthritis Research Society International. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

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