The distribution and severity of osteoarthritis were investigated in 56 knees by history and physical examination, assessment of knee function, radiography with and without weight-bearing, double-contrast arthrography, and 99mTc-polyphosphate bone imaging. Compartmental involvement (medial, lateral, patellofemoral) was graded independently by 2 or 3 observers for each modality and was correlated with that observed during arthroscopy or direct surgical inspection. The more involved compartments were graded abnormal by all methods. In the less involved compartments, the gamma camera image was most sensitive to pathology, followed by arthrography. The choice of surgical technique and the prognosis depend upon accurate preoperative knowledge of the extent of disease.