High signal in knee osteophytes is not associated with knee pain

Osteoarthritis Cartilage. 2006 May;14(5):413-7. doi: 10.1016/j.joca.2005.11.012. Epub 2006 Jan 24.


Objective: Our understanding of the local source of pain in osteoarthritis (OA) remains unclear. We undertook this study to determine if the presence of high-signal osteophytes on magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) was associated with pain presence, location or severity.

Methods: Subjects were chosen from the Boston Osteoarthritis of the Knee Study, a natural history study of symptomatic knee OA. Assessments included knee MRI, pain assessments and information on weight and height. Osteophyte signal was defined as areas of increased signal intensity in the osteophyte on fat-suppressed T2 weighted images, and graded in the joint margins where osteophyte size is graded. All patients were evaluated with the frequent knee symptoms question for pain presence, the Western Ontario McMasters Osteoarthritis Index (WOMAC) for pain severity, and location of self-reported pain was recorded as present or absent based on locations identified on a standardized diagram. The osteophyte signal measures anywhere within one given knee were summed, creating an osteophyte signal aggregate. Logistic regression was conducted with quartile of osteophyte signal aggregate as the independent predictor and frequent knee symptom question as the dependent outcome. Association between quartile of osteophyte signal aggregate and pain severity on WOMAC was assessed using a linear regression. Logistic regression was used to evaluate the association between compartment-specific high-signal osteophytes aggregates (independent variable) and compartment-specific knee pain (dependent variable). Analyses were adjusted for gender, body mass index (BMI), and age.

Results: Two hundred and seventeen subjects were included in this analysis. They were predominantly male and 75% of subjects had radiographic tibio-femoral (TF) OA, and the remainder had patello-femoral (PF) radiographic OA. We did not find any association of high-signal osteophytes with presence of pain, pain severity or self-reported pain location.

Conclusion: High-signal osteophytes detected on MRI are not associated with the presence of pain, pain severity or the self-reported location of pain.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Knee Joint / pathology
  • Knee Joint / physiopathology*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Osteoarthritis, Knee / pathology
  • Osteoarthritis, Knee / physiopathology*
  • Pain / pathology
  • Pain / physiopathology*
  • Pain Measurement / methods
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Signal Transduction / physiology