Role of inflammation in the pathogenesis of osteoarthritis: latest findings and interpretations

Ther Adv Musculoskelet Dis. 2013 Apr;5(2):77-94. doi: 10.1177/1759720X12467868.


Osteoarthritis (OA) has traditionally been classified as a noninflammatory arthritis; however, the dichotomy between inflammatory and degenerative arthritis is becoming less clear with the recognition of a plethora of ongoing immune processes within the OA joint and synovium. Synovitis is defined as inflammation of the synovial membrane and is characteristic of classical inflammatory arthritidies. Increasingly recognized is the presence of synovitis in a significant proportion of patients with primary OA, and based on this observation, further studies have gone on to implicate joint inflammation and synovitis in the pathogenesis of OA. However, clinical OA is not one disease but a final common pathway secondary to many predisposing factors, most notably age, joint trauma, altered biomechanics, and obesity. How such biochemical and mechanical processes contribute to the progressive joint failure characteristic of OA is tightly linked to the interplay of joint damage, the immune response to perceived damage, and the subsequent state of chronic inflammation resulting in propagation and progression toward the phenotype recognized as clinical OA. This review will discuss a wide range of evolving data leading to our current hypotheses regarding the role of immune activation and inflammation in OA onset and progression. Although OA can affect any joint, most commonly the knee, hip, spine, and hands, this review will focus primarily on OA of the knee as this is the joint most well characterized by epidemiologic, imaging, and translational studies investigating the association of inflammation with OA.

Keywords: Osteoarthritis; inflammation; innate Immunity.