Is osteoarthritis a systemic disorder of bone?

Arthritis Rheum. 2004 Feb;50(2):452-7. doi: 10.1002/art.20136.


Objective: To describe the osteologic findings associated with osteoarthritis (OA) of a variety of joints.

Methods: We performed visual examination of 563 skeletons of which >/=80% of the skeleton was available, from an archaeologic site in England. The surfaces and margins of several different joints (shoulders, elbows, wrists, hips, hands, knees, and ankles) were studied for evidence of eburnation and osteophytes, respectively, and the entire skeleton was examined for evidence of generalized enthesophyte formation. Associations between changes in different joint sites and between enthesophyte formation and evidence of OA were sought.

Results: Eburnation and osteophyte formation at the hand, hip, and knee were strongly associated with eburnation and osteophytes at other joint sites not commonly thought to be prone to OA, including the elbow and wrist. Only the ankle was rarely involved. There was also a strong relationship between both bone eburnation and osteophytes and generalized enthesophyte formation. These findings remained statistically significant after adjustment for the age, sex, and historical period of the skeletons.

Conclusion: Our findings indicate that skeletal OA is more widespread in the body than is apparent from clinical studies and are consistent with other data suggesting that OA is a disease that is primarily dependent on systemic predisposition to a particular type of bone response to mechanical stress.

Publication types

  • Historical Article
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Bone Diseases / complications
  • Bone Diseases / history
  • Bone Diseases / pathology*
  • Bone and Bones / pathology*
  • England
  • Female
  • History, 15th Century
  • History, Ancient
  • History, Medieval
  • Humans
  • Joints / pathology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Ossification, Heterotopic / history
  • Ossification, Heterotopic / pathology*
  • Osteoarthritis / etiology
  • Osteoarthritis / history
  • Osteoarthritis / pathology*
  • Paleopathology
  • Stress, Mechanical