Introduction: Few data are available concerning structural changes at the hip observed by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) in people with or without hip osteoarthritis (OA). The aim of this study was to compare cartilage volume and the presence of cartilage defects and bone marrow lesions (BMLs) in participants with and without diagnosed hip OA.
Methods: Femoral head cartilage volume was measured by MRI for 141 community-based persons with no diagnosed hip OA, and 19 with diagnosed hip OA. Cartilage defects and BMLs were regionally scored at the femoral head and acetabulum.
Results: Compared with those without diagnosed hip OA, people with diagnosed hip OA had less femoral head cartilage volume (1763 mm3 versus 3343 mm3; p < 0.001) and more prevalent cartilage defects and BMLs (all p ≤ 0.05) at all sites other than the central inferomedial region of the femoral head. In those with no diagnosed hip OA, cartilage defects in the anterior and central superolateral region of the femoral head were associated with reduced femoral head cartilage volume (all p ≤ 0.02). Central superolateral BMLs at all sites were associated with reduced femoral head cartilage volume (all p ≤ 0.003), with a similar trend occurring when BMLs were located in the anterior region of the hip (all p ≤ 0.08).
Conclusions: Compared with community-based adults with no diagnosed hip OA, people with diagnosed hip OA have less femoral head cartilage volume and a higher prevalence of cartilage defects and BMLs. For people with no diagnosed hip OA, femoral head cartilage volume was reduced where cartilage defects and/or BMLs were present in the anterior and central superolateral regions of the hip joint. Cartilage defects and BMLs present in the anterior and central superolateral regions may represent early structural damage in the pathogenesis of hip OA.