Objective: To estimate the prevalence of bone and soft tissue abnormalities in asymptomatic knees using peripheral magnetic resonance imaging (pMRI) and to examine the relationship between these abnormalities and Kellgren-Lawrence (K-L) graded X-rays.
Method: Volunteers (20-68 years) with no history of knee pain, injury or bone or joint disease were recruited. Individuals underwent a single MRI scan and radiograph of their non-dominant knee. pMR images were acquired in sagittal plane using a 3-D gradient-echo protocol. Two radiologists graded the presence and severity of cartilage degeneration, osteophytosis, meniscal and ligamentous abnormalities, bone marrow edema and subchondral cysts. X-rays were acquired using a fixed-flexion technique and graded using the K-L scale.
Results: Forty-four individuals, mean age (SD) 41.1 (14.2) years, participated. K-L grading of X-rays revealed 29 individuals were grade 0, 12 were grade 1 and 3 were grade 2. Five individuals showed evidence of cartilage lesions, the femoral trochlea, medial femur and patella being those regions most commonly affected. Twelve individuals (27.3%) showed evidence of osteophytosis, nine of whom did not show evidence on X-ray. Forty-three individuals showed evidence of at least one meniscal abnormality while 27 individuals (61.4%) had abnormalities in at least three of the four regions of the knee.
Conclusion: Our results suggest that osteophytes may be more prevalent in this population than radiographic data suggests due to the limitations of two-dimensional imaging. Meniscal degeneration or tears, a risk factor for knee osteoarthritis, are highly prevalent in asymptomatic individuals with the medial anterior and posterior horns being the most commonly affected regions.