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Rheumatology (Oxford). 2002 Aug;41(8):917-23.

Meniscal and articular cartilage changes in knee osteoarthritis: a cross-sectional double-contrast macroradiographic study.

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Department of Applied Clinical Anatomy, King's College London, School of Biomedical Science, Guy's Hospital Campus, London, UK.



In knee osteoarthritis (OA) damage to meniscal cartilage is associated with the changes in articular cartilage. Using double-contrast macroradiographs we determined whether the degree of meniscal cartilage damage was similar to or different from that at the corresponding regions of the articular cartilage on the tibia and femur.


Double-contrast microfocal macroradiographs,x7-x9 magnification, were obtained of the tibio-femoral joint in 20 osteoarthritic knee patients with medial compartment disease (Kellgren and Lawrence grades I-III). The appearance of the meniscus and the femoral and tibial articular cartilage were graded separately using a 5-point scale.


In the medial diseased compartment, articular cartilage damage on the tibia was similar to that of the meniscus, which had significantly greater (P<0.02) degenerative changes than the cartilage on the femur. In the lateral compartment, meniscal damage was significantly worse than in either tibial (P<0.04) or femoral articular cartilages (P<0.01), respectively; none was as severe as that in the medial osteoarthritic compartment.


Although the cross-sectional nature of this study precluded definite aetiological inferences, this study showed that degenerative changes in the meniscal and articular cartilages were not totally variable. Because of its larger articular surface, changes in the medial femoral cartilage were less marked than at the meniscal and tibial cartilages in the osteoarthritic compartment. In the lateral compartment, meniscal damage precedes tibial and femoral articular cartilage changes. In knees with medial compartment OA, combined meniscal and articular cartilage damage would account for detection of radiographic joint space loss and not meniscal extrusion only.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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