Cross-sectional and Longitudinal Associations between Knee Joint Effusion Synovitis and Knee Pain in Older Adults

J Rheumatol. 2016 Jan;43(1):121-30. doi: 10.3899/jrheum.150355. Epub 2015 Nov 15.


Objective: To describe the cross-sectional and longitudinal associations between knee regional effusion synovitis and knee pain in older adults.

Methods: Data from a population-based random sample (n = 880, mean age 62 yrs, 50% women) were used. Baseline knee joint effusion synovitis was graded (0-3) using T2-weighted magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) in the suprapatellar pouch, central portion, posterior femoral recess, and subpopliteal recess. Effusion synovitis of the whole joint was defined as a score of ≥ 2 in any subregion. Other knee structural (including cartilage, bone marrow, and menisci) lesions were assessed by MRI at baseline. Knee pain was assessed by the Western Ontario and McMaster Universities Osteoarthritis Index questionnaire at baseline and 2.6 years later. Multivariable analyses were performed after adjustment for age, sex, body mass index, and other structural lesions.

Results: The prevalence of effusion synovitis was 67%. Suprapatellar pouch effusion synovitis was significantly and independently associated with increased total and nonweight-bearing knee pain in both cross-sectional and longitudinal analyses (for an increase in total knee pain of ≥ 5, RR 1.26 per grade, 95% CI 1.04-1.52), and increased weight-bearing knee pain in longitudinal analysis only. Effusion synovitis in posterior femoral recess and central portion were independently associated with increases in nonweight-bearing pain (RR 1.63 per grade, 95% CI 1.32-2.01 and RR 1.29 per grade, 95% CI 1.01-1.65, respectively) in longitudinal analyses only.

Conclusion: Knee joint effusion synovitis has independent associations with knee pain in older adults. Suprapatellar pouch effusion synovitis is associated with nonweight-bearing and weight-bearing knee pain, while posterior femoral recess and central portion effusion synovitis are only associated with nonweight-bearing pain.


Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Arthralgia / pathology*
  • Arthralgia / physiopathology
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Exudates and Transudates
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Knee Joint / pathology*
  • Knee Joint / physiopathology
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pain Measurement
  • Prognosis
  • Range of Motion, Articular / physiology*
  • Risk Assessment
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Synovitis / diagnosis*
  • Synovitis / epidemiology
  • Tasmania
  • Weight-Bearing / physiology*