Responsiveness to change and reliability of measurement of radiographic joint space width in osteoarthritis of the knee: a systematic review

Osteoarthritis Cartilage. 2011 May;19(5):550-6. doi: 10.1016/j.joca.2011.01.023. Epub 2011 Mar 23.


Objective: The goal of this systematic review was to report the responsiveness to change and reliability of conventional radiographic joint space width (JSW) measurement.

Method: We searched the PubMed and Embase databases using the following search criteria: [osteoarthritis (OA) (MeSH)] AND (knee) AND (X-ray OR radiography OR diagnostic imaging OR radiology OR disease progression) AND (joint space OR JSW or disease progression). We assessed responsiveness by calculating the standardized response mean (SRM). We assessed reliability using intra- and inter-reader intra-class correlation (ICC) and coefficient of variation (CV). Random-effects models were used to pool results from multiple studies. Results were stratified by study duration, design, techniques of obtaining radiographs, and measurement method.

Results: We identified 998 articles using the search terms. Of these, 32 articles (43 estimates) reported data on responsiveness of JSW measurement and 24 (50 estimates) articles reported data on measures of reliability. The overall pooled SRM was 0.33 [95% confidence interval (CI): 0.26, 0.41]. Responsiveness of change in JSW measurement was improved substantially in studies of greater than 2 years duration (0.57). Further stratifying this result in studies of greater than 2 years duration, radiographs obtained with the knee in a flexed position yielded an SRM of 0.71. Pooled intra-reader ICC was estimated at 0.97 (95% CI: 0.92, 1.00) and the intra-reader CV estimated at 3.0 (95% CI: 2.0, 4.0). Pooled inter-reader ICC was estimated at 0.93 (95% CI: 0.86, 0.99) and the inter-reader CV estimated at 3.4% (95% CI: 1.3%, 5.5%).

Conclusions: Measurement of JSW obtained from radiographs in persons with knee is reliable. These data will be useful to clinicians who are planning RCTs where the change in minimum JSW is the outcome of interest.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Disease Progression
  • Fluoroscopy
  • Humans
  • Knee Joint / diagnostic imaging*
  • Observer Variation
  • Osteoarthritis, Knee / diagnostic imaging*
  • Osteoarthritis, Knee / pathology
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Research Design