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Osteoarthritis Cartilage. 2008 Sep;16(9):1005-10. doi: 10.1016/j.joca.2008.02.001. Epub 2008 Mar 25.

Prevalence of bone attrition on knee radiographs and MRI in a community-based cohort.

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  • 1Clinical Epidemiology Unit, Boston University School of Medicine, Boston, MA 02118, United States.



Bone attrition probably constitutes remodeling of the bone, resulting in flattening or depression of the articular surfaces. Defining bone attrition is challenging because it is an accentuation of the normal curvature of the tibial plateaus. We aimed to define bone attrition on magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the knee using information from both radiographs and MRIs, and to assess whether bone attrition is common prior to end stage disease osteoarthritis (OA) in the tibio-femoral joint.


All knees of participants in the community-based sample of the Framingham OA Study were evaluated for bone attrition in radiographs and MRIs. Radiographs were scored based on templates designed to outline the normal contours of the tibio-femoral joint. MRIs were analyzed using the semi-quantitative Whole-Organ Magnetic Resonance Imaging Scoring (WORMS) method. The prevalence of bone attrition was calculated using two different thresholds for MRI scores.


Inter-observer agreement for identification of bone attrition was substantial for the radiographs (kappa=0.71, 95% CI 0.67-0.81) and moderate for MRI (kappa=0.56, 95% CI 0.40-0.72). Of 964 knees, 5.7% of the radiographs showed bone attrition. Of these, 91% of MRIs were also read as showing bone attrition. We selected a conservative threshold for bone attrition on MRI scoring (> or = 2 on a 0-3 scale) based on agreement with attrition on the radiograph or when bone attrition on MRI co-occurred with cartilage loss on OA. Using this threshold for bone attrition on MRI, bone attrition was common in knees with OA. For example, in knees with mild OA but no joint space narrowing, 13 of 88 MRIs (14.8%) showed bone attrition.


Using MRI we found that many knees with mild OA without joint narrowing on radiographs had bone attrition, even using conservative definitions. The validity of our definition of bone attrition should be evaluated in further studies. Bone attrition may occur in milder OA and at earlier stages of disease than previously thought.

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