Objective: Whilst the characteristic pathologic feature of OA is the loss of hyaline cartilage, prior studies have demonstrated a poor relationship between severity of reported knee pain and degree of radiographic change. The aim of this study was to examine the association between knee symptoms and MRI cartilage volume.
Design: A cross-sectional study was performed to assess the association between knee symptoms and MRI cartilage volume in an unselected, community based population. The subjects were 133 postmenopausal females. The subjects had a T2-weighted fat saturated sagittal gradient-echo MRI performed of their right knee. Femoral, tibial and patella cartilage volumes were measured using three-dimensional (3D) Slicer, a software that facilitates semi-automatic segmentation, generation of 3D surface models and quantitative analysis. Qualitative data relating to symptoms, stiffness, pain, physical dysfunction and the quality of life using the WOMAC were recorded. The statistical analyses conducted to determine measures of association between knee pain/symptoms and cartilage volume were correlation, multiple regression and inter-quartile regression.
Results: Assessment of the association between patella cartilage volume and the WOMAC domains showed an inverse relationship between patella cartilage volume and pain, function and global score in a model including body mass index, physical activity and leg extensor power (all P=0.01). Inter-quartile regression comparing the lowest 25% with highest 25% patella cartilage volume demonstrated a stronger inverse relationship (P=0.005).
Conclusion: This study suggests that alterations in patella volume are associated with pain, function and global scores of the WOMAC. In participants with more knee pain, there was an association with severity of patella cartilage reduction. Other MRI cartilage volume features were not strongly associated with WOMAC sub-scores.