Background: Bone marrow abnormalities (BMAs) detected on magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) are suggested to be involved in the pathogenesis of osteoarthritis (OA), and the size of the BMAs is associated with the progression of OA. However, it still remains unclear as to whether the associations of BMA size and OA severity are observed equally or whether they differ from early to advanced stages of OA. In the present study we examined whether BMA enlargement and OA progression differed according to the severity of OA.
Methods: One hundred and eighty patients with knee OA were enrolled in the present study, and 122 of these patients completed this study. Radiography and knee MRI were done two times in all patients, at the baseline and 6 months or later at the time of patient follow-up. The severity of OA was evaluated by radiography using the Kellgren-Lawrence (K-L) grade. The patients who showed a deterioration in the K-L grade during the follow-up examination (59/122) were defined as the deterioration group. T2-weighted fat-suppressed MR images were used to score the size of the BMAs according to the whole-organ magnetic resonance imaging score (WORMS). A new scoring system, the spacial BMA score (s-score) was defined to assess the size of the BMAs three-dimensionally.
Results: In patients with K-L grade 2, the s-score changes during the follow-up period in the deterioration group were significantly increased in comparison to those in the no-change group (P = 0.04), and no significant s-score changes were observed in patients with either K-L grade 1 or 3 (P = 0.07 and 0.57) between the deterioration group and the no-change group during the follow-up examination. In patients with K-L grade 3, the s-score at the baseline in the deterioration group was higher than that in the no-change group (P = 0.05).
Conclusions: The relationship between the size and enlargement of BMAs and the progression of OA changed depending upon the severity of OA.