Bone marrow lesion severity was associated with proximal tibial inclination in early knee osteoarthritis

Knee Surg Sports Traumatol Arthrosc. 2022 Feb;30(2):668-679. doi: 10.1007/s00167-020-06378-7. Epub 2021 Jan 4.


Purpose: This study aimed to investigate the effect of tibial plateau (TP) inclination and serum bone metabolic markers on bone marrow lesion (BML) in the general Japanese population with early knee osteoarthritis (EKOA).

Methods: A total of 441 female volunteers who participated in the Iwaki Health Promotion Project in 2017 were enrolled. Participants without radiographic abnormalities were divided into normal and EKOA groups according to the Luyten's classification criteria for EKOA. The medial proximal tibial angle (MPTA), growth plate-TP angle, and growth plate-medial tibial plateau (MTP) angle were measured on standing anteroposterior radiographs of the knees. BML severity on T2-weighted fat-suppressed magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) was scored using the Whole-Organ MRI Score method. Serum levels of N-telopeptide of type I collagen, tartrate-resistant acid phosphatase-5b (TRACP-5b), bone-specific alkaline phosphatase, procollagen type I N-terminal propeptide, pentosidine, and homocysteine were assessed. Linear regression analysis was conducted to investigate the relationship between proximal tibial inclination, BML, and serum bone metabolic markers.

Results: The growth plate was observed in 309 (70%) participants, and 48 (16%) participants had EKOA. The mean MPTA, growth plate-TP angle, and growth plate-MTP angle were 86.1 ± 5.9°, 3.6 ± 1.1°, and 9.9 ± 2.6°, respectively. The MPTA was negatively correlated with the growth plate-TP and growth plate-MTP angles (p = 0.006, p < 0.001). Participants with EKOA who had BML exhibited greater growth plate-MTP angle than those who did not (p = 0.018). Regression analysis revealed that BML severity was positively associated with MPTA (p = 0.036) and a bone formation marker (p = 0.045).

Conclusion: BML severity was positively associated with proximal tibial inclination and serum TRACP-5b level in participants with EKOA and normal knees, respectively. Assessment of proximal tibial inclination may provide insight into potential BML risk. Residual medial tibial inclination may potentially result in knee pain and symptoms in EKOA.

Level of evidence: III.

Keywords: Bone marrow lesion; Bone metabolic marker; Early knee osteoarthritis; Growth plate; Medial proximal tibial angle.

MeSH terms

  • Bone Marrow / diagnostic imaging
  • Bone Marrow / pathology
  • Cartilage Diseases* / pathology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Knee Joint / diagnostic imaging
  • Knee Joint / pathology
  • Osteoarthritis, Knee* / diagnostic imaging
  • Osteoarthritis, Knee* / pathology
  • Tibia / diagnostic imaging
  • Tibia / pathology