Objective: Osteoarthritis (OA) is a leading cause of pain and physical disability in middle-aged and older individuals. We undertook this study to determine predictors of the development of severe OA, apart from age and overweight.
Methods: Joint replacement surgery due to severe hip or knee OA was recorded over a 15-year period in the prospective Bruneck cohort study. Demographic characteristics and lifestyle and biochemical variables, including the level of soluble vascular cell adhesion molecule 1 (VCAM-1), were assessed at the 1990 baseline visit and tested as predictors of joint replacement surgery.
Results: Between 1990 and 2005, hip or knee joint replacement due to OA was performed in 60 subjects. VCAM-1 level emerged as a highly significant predictor of the risk of joint replacement surgery. Intervention rates were 1.9, 4.2, and 10.1 per 1,000 person-years in the first, second, and third tertiles, of the VCAM-1 level, respectively. In multivariable logistic regression analysis, the adjusted relative risk of joint replacement surgery in the highest versus the lowest tertile group of VCAM-1 level was 3.9 (95% confidence interval 1.7-8.7) (P<0.001). Findings were robust in various sensitivity analyses and were consistent in subgroups. Addition of the VCAM-1 level to a risk model already including age, sex, and body mass index resulted in significant gains in model discrimination (C statistic) and calibration and in more accurate risk classification of individual participants.
Conclusion: The level of soluble VCAM-1 emerged as a strong and independent predictor of the risk of hip and knee joint replacement due to severe OA. If our findings can be reproduced in other epidemiologic cohorts, they will assist in routine risk classification and will contribute to a better understanding of the etiology of OA.