Ligament and bone pathologic abnormalities more frequent in neuropathic joint disease in comparison with degenerative arthritis of the foot and ankle: implications for understanding rapidly progressive joint degeneration

Arthritis Rheum. 2010 Aug;62(8):2353-8. doi: 10.1002/art.27547.


Objective: The variable disease progression of osteoarthritis (OA) and the basis for rapid joint deterioration in some subgroups of patients are poorly understood. To explore an anatomic basis for rapidly progressive OA, this observational study compared the magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) patterns of disease between patients with neuropathic joint disease (NJD) and patients with degenerative arthritis of the ankle and foot.

Methods: MR images of the foot and ankle of patients with early NJD (n = 7) and patients with OA (n = 15) were assessed. The anonomized MR images were dichotomously scored by a musculoskeletal radiologist for the presence of the following abnormalities per bone (of a total of 14 bones): cartilage defects, bone cysts, bone marrow edema, fractures, joint debris, joint effusions, tendinopathy, tendinitis, and ligament tears.

Results: Although the degree of cartilage damage and joint cyst formation was comparable between the groups, the degree of ligament tears, or change in MRI signal intensity in the ligaments, was significantly greater in patients with NJD compared with patients with OA (median of 3 tears versus 0, of 14 total bones; P < 0.01). Moreover, in patients with early NJD compared with patients with OA, there was a significantly greater degree of diffuse bone marrow edema (median of 6.5 tarsal bones versus 2 adjacent bones, of 14 total bones; P < 0.01), a greater number of bone fractures (median 4 versus 0; P < 0.01), and more frequent bone debris (median 4.5 versus 0; P = 0.013).

Conclusion: This analysis of NJD in the foot and ankle shows the predominance of bone and ligament abnormalities in NJD compared with the pattern of involvement in OA. These findings highlight the importance of structures other than articular cartilage in OA of the ankle and foot, and suggest that rapid joint degeneration in NJD may be more ligamentogenic or osteogenic in nature.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Arthropathy, Neurogenic / pathology*
  • Bone and Bones / abnormalities*
  • Bone and Bones / pathology
  • Cartilage, Articular / abnormalities
  • Cartilage, Articular / pathology
  • Disease Progression
  • Female
  • Foot Joints / abnormalities*
  • Foot Joints / pathology
  • Humans
  • Ligaments, Articular / abnormalities*
  • Ligaments, Articular / pathology
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Osteoarthritis / pathology*
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Statistics, Nonparametric
  • Tendinopathy / pathology