Clinical, radiologic, demographic, and occupational aspects of hand osteoarthritis in the elderly

Semin Arthritis Rheum. 2001 Apr;30(5):321-31. doi: 10.1053/sarh.2001.19957.


Objective: Osteoarthritis (OA) of the hand is common in elderly patients. The aim of this study was to characterize OA frequency, severity, and distribution and to trace interrelationships between these findings and the demographic, occupational, and medical data from elderly Jewish nonrheumatologic patients.

Methods: Study participants were 253 consecutive patients admitted to a geriatric center for a variety of nonrheumatic medical conditions. Excluded patients were those with rheumatoid arthritis; neurologic, orthopedic, or other conditions that would interfere with symmetric hand function; and mental or medical states that would interfere with history taking and radiographic studies. Patient occupations were graded as workload degree (on a scale of 1 to 3) and as the total occupational score (workload degree multiplied by the duration of each job). Clinical findings of Heberden nodes, Bouchard nodes, and malignment, graded on a scale of 0 to 3, were summed as the clinical OA score. Hand radiographs were independently read (modified Altman method), grading 5 parameters in each joint on a scale of 0 to 3, summed as a radiologic OA score. Statistical analyses included the Student t test, chi(2) test, ANOVA, Pearson correlation, and partial correlation coefficients.

Results: Among 253 elderly patients (171 women, 82 men; mean age, 79 years) OA was frequent (occurring in about 80% of patients), involving most severely the second and third distal interphalangeal, right first interphalangeal, and both first carpometacarpal joints. The prevalence of OA was similar in women and men, with higher scores in women, and reached significance only in the distal interphalangeal joints. Metacarpophalangeal joints were more involved in men. Age had a clear influence on OA scores. Ethnicity affected OA severity, with Ashkenazi Jews having significantly higher scores than Sepharadi Jews. Dominant hands had significantly higher global OA scores as well as isolated joint scores (except for the first carpometacarpal joint). Occupational load, housekeeping tasks, and the number of children did not influence the total or specific joint OA scores. Associated conditions such as obesity, diabetes, hypothyroidism, and chondro calcinosis were not associated with more pronounced OA.

Conclusions: Hand OA was prevalent in our elderly cohort, and its severity was influenced by inherent traits such as age, female gender, ethnicity, and handedness. In contrast, acquired factors such as workload, number of children, and associated diseases did not appear to influence OA expression.

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Chondrocalcinosis / diagnostic imaging
  • Female
  • Hand / diagnostic imaging*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Occupations
  • Osteoarthritis / diagnostic imaging*
  • Osteoarthritis / ethnology
  • Radiography
  • Sex Factors