Objectives: Radiographic osteoarthritis (ROA) has previously been shown to be associated with an increase in areal bone mineral density (BMD) as assessed by dual energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA). Here we have assessed volumetric bone density, size and strength by peripheral quantitative computed tomography (pQCT) in a large population-based cohort study in which knee radiographs were available.
Methods: Two hundred and ninety-five men and 288 women from the MRC Hertfordshire Cohort Study underwent weight bearing extended knee X-rays and bone density measurement of the ipsi-lateral knee using pQCT.
Results: Increasing radiographic grade in men but not women was associated with an increase in tibial total area at 38% site and cortical area at 14% site, but not with volumetric BMD. The tibial fracture loads as well as tibial polar strength strain index at 38% site were also increased. There were no significant associations of tibia bone area, BMD or strength with radiographic grade in women.
Conclusion: ROA is not associated with an increase in volumetric BMD as assessed by pQCT. It is, however, associated with a significant increase in bone area and strength, indicating that the association between ROA and areal BMD is mediated through bone size rather than volumetric BMD.