Imaging of osteoarthritis: update from a radiological perspective

Curr Opin Rheumatol. 2011 Sep;23(5):484-91. doi: 10.1097/BOR.0b013e328349c2d2.


Purpose of review: Imaging plays an increasingly important role in the continuing effort to understand the pathogenesis of osteoarthritis and in the quest for disease-modifying osteoarthritis drugs. To assist investigators in choosing the appropriate imaging technique for a particular goal of a study, this review describes, from a radiological point of view, key studies that were published between May 2010 and May 2011.

Recent findings: MRI and ultrasound are the two key modalities for osteoarthritis research today. MRI offers semiquantitative, quantitative and compositional assessment. The importance of contrast-enhanced MRI for synovitis assessment has been demonstrated by several studies. Radiography still has a role in clinical trials in light of regulatory requirements, but investigators need to be aware of its inherent limitations. MRI is the best modality for imaging of osteoarthritis: its strengths and unique advantages include ability to visualize multiple individual tissue pathologies relating to pain and also to predict clinical outcome.

Summary: MRI enables multitissue morphologic and compositional assessment of the joint. Contrast-enhanced MRI is essential for evaluation of synovitis in knee osteoarthritis. Ultrasound is a useful technique for assessing synovitis and structural damage especially in hand osteoarthritis.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Bone Cysts / pathology
  • Bone Marrow / pathology
  • Cartilage, Articular / pathology
  • Diagnostic Imaging / methods
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Menisci, Tibial / pathology
  • Osteoarthritis / diagnosis*
  • Osteoarthritis / diagnostic imaging
  • Osteoarthritis / pathology
  • Radiography
  • Synovitis / pathology
  • Ultrasonography