Objective: To compare ultrasonographic (US) findings with clinical and radiographic assessment in knee osteoarthritis (OA).
Methods: Fifty patients with primary knee OA were studied. Clinical assessment of both knees was performed by the same rheumatologist who recorded a visual analogue scale (VAS) for pain (VASP). All patients underwent a US examination of their knees by a second blinded rheumatologist. Weight-bearing anteroposterior and lateral knee radiographs were read by a third blinded rheumatologist who assessed the Kellgren and Lawrence (K-L) grade, the femorotibial (FT) space width and the presence of patello-femoral degenerative signs.
Results: Forty patients had bilateral symptomatic knee OA and 10 unilateral symptomatic OA. All knees showed radiographic FT degenerative signs. US findings in symptomatic knees were effusion (47%), protrusion of the medial meniscus (MMP) with displacement of the medial collateral ligament (MCLD) (61%) and Baker's cyst (22%). US effusion, MMP and MCLD were associated with a significantly higher VAS score for pain (P<0.05). MMP was associated with medial FT space width (P<0.05). Patients who had a difference between VAS score for pain in each knee greater than 30 (28 patients) showed significantly more unilateral effusion, MMP, MCLD and worse K-L grade in the more symptomatic knee than those with a difference lesser than 30 (22 patients).
Conclusion: Knee effusion and MMP with MCLD are associated with pain in knee OA. In addition, MMP may contribute to the radiographic medial FT space narrowing. We propose US for assessing periarticular and intraarticular abnormalities involved in the pathophysiology of knee OA.