Subchondral Calcium Phosphate is Ineffective for Bone Marrow Edema Lesions in Adults With Advanced Osteoarthritis

Clin Orthop Relat Res. 2015 Jul;473(7):2334-42. doi: 10.1007/s11999-015-4311-0. Epub 2015 Apr 28.


Background: Injury to subchondral bone is associated with knee pain and osteoarthritis (OA). A percutaneous calcium phosphate injection is a novel approach in which subchondral bone marrow edema lesions are percutaneously injected with calcium phosphate. In theory, calcium phosphate provides structural support while it is gradually replaced by bone. However, little clinical evidence supports the efficacy of percutaneous calcium phosphate injections.

Questions/purposes: We asked: (1) Does percutaneous calcium phosphate injection improve validated patient-reported outcome measures? (2) What proportion of patients experience failure of treatment (defined as a low score on the Tegner Lysholm Knee Scoring Scale)? (3) Is there a relationship between outcome and age, sex, BMI, and preoperative grade of OA?

Methods: Between September 2012 and January 2014, we treated 33 patients with percutaneous calcium phosphate injections. Twenty-five satisfied our study inclusion criteria; of those, three patients were lost to followup and 22 (88%; 13 men, nine women) with a median age of 53.5 years (range, 38-70 years) were available for retrospective chart review and telephone evaluation at a minimum of 6 months (median, 12 months; range, 6-24 months). Our general indications for this procedure were the presence of subchondral bone marrow edema lesions observed on MR images involving weightbearing regions of the knee associated with localized pain on weightbearing and palpation and failure to respond to conservative therapy (> 3 months). Patients with pain secondary to extensive nondegenerative meniscal tears with a flipped displaced component at the level of bone marrow edema lesions, or with mechanical axis deviation greater than 8° were excluded. All patients had Grades III or IV chondral lesions (modified Outerbridge grading system for chondromalacia) overlying MRI-identified subchondral bone marrow edema lesions. Percutaneous calcium phosphate injection was performed on the medial tibial condyle (15 patients), the medial femoral condyle (five patients), and the lateral femoral condyle (two patients). Concomitant partial meniscectomy was performed in 18 patients. Preoperative and postoperative scores from the Knee Injury and Arthritis Outcome Score (KOOS) and the Tegner Lysholm Knee Scoring Scale were analyzed.

Results: For patients available for followup, the outcome scores improved after treatment. The KOOS improved from a mean of 39.5 ± 21.8 to 71.3 ± 23 (95% CI, 18.6-45.2; p < 0.001) and the Tegner and Lysholm score from 48 ± 15.1 to 77.5 ± 20.6 (95% CI, 18.8-40.2; p < 0.001). However, seven of the 22 patients had poor clinical outcomes as assessed by the Tegner Lysholm Knee Scoring Scale, whereas three had fair results, five had good results, and seven had excellent results. The postoperative Tegner Lysholm score was inversely related to the preoperative Kellgren-Lawrence OA grade (R(2) = 0.292; F (1.20) = 9.645; p = 0.006). We found no relationship between outcome scores and age, sex, or BMI.

Conclusions: In a study that would have been expected to present a best-case analysis (short-term followup, loss to followup of patients with potentially unsatisfactory results, and use of invasive cotreatments including arthroscopic débridements), we found that percutaneous calcium phosphate injection in patients with symptomatic bone marrow edema lesions of the knee and advanced OA yielded poor results in a concerning proportion of our patients. Based on these results, we advise against the use of percutaneous calcium phosphate injections for patients with advanced osteoarthritic changes.

Level of evidence: Level IV, therapeutic study.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Bone Marrow Diseases / drug therapy*
  • Calcium Phosphates / administration & dosage*
  • Cartilage, Articular
  • Edema / drug therapy*
  • Edema / etiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Injections, Intra-Articular
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Osteoarthritis / complications*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Treatment Failure


  • Calcium Phosphates
  • calcium phosphate