Objective: Although knee malalignment is assumed to correlate with knee osteoarthritis (OA), it is still unknown whether malalignment precedes the development of OA or whether it is a result of OA. The aim of this study was to assess the relationship between malalignment and the development of knee OA as well as progression of knee OA.
Methods: A total of 1,501 participants in the Rotterdam study were randomly selected. Knee OA at baseline and at followup (mean followup 6.6 years) was scored according to the Kellgren/Lawrence (K/L) grading system. Alignment was measured by the femorotibial angle on radiographs at baseline. Multivariable logistic regression for repeated measurements was used to analyze the association of malalignment with the development and progression of OA.
Results: Of 2,664 knees, 1,012 (38%) were considered to have normal alignment, 693 (26%) had varus alignment, and 959 (36%) had valgus alignment. A comparison of valgus alignment and normal alignment showed that valgus alignment was associated with a borderline significant increase in development of knee OA (odds ratio [OR] 1.54, 95% confidence interval [95% CI] 0.97-2.44), and varus alignment was associated with a 2-fold increased risk (OR 2.06, 95% CI 1.28-3.32). Stratification for body mass index showed that this increased risk was especially seen in overweight and obese individuals but not in non-overweight persons. The risk of OA progression was also significantly increased in the group with varus alignment compared with the group with normal alignment (OR 2.90, 95% CI 1.07-7.88).
Conclusion: An increasing degree of varus alignment is associated not only with progression of knee OA but also with development of knee OA. However, this association seems particularly applicable to overweight and obese persons.