Early-stage symptomatic osteoarthritis of the knee - time for action

Nat Rev Rheumatol. 2021 Oct;17(10):621-632. doi: 10.1038/s41584-021-00673-4. Epub 2021 Aug 31.


Osteoarthritis (OA) remains the most challenging arthritic disorder, with a high burden of disease and no available disease-modifying treatments. Symptomatic early-stage OA of the knee (the focus of this Review) urgently needs to be identified and defined, as efficient early-stage case finding and diagnosis in primary care would enable health-care providers to proactively and substantially reduce the burden of disease through proper management including structured education, exercise and weight management (when needed) and addressing lifestyle-related risk factors for disease progression. Efforts to define patient populations with symptomatic early-stage knee OA on the basis of validated classification criteria are ongoing. Such criteria, as well as the identification of molecular and imaging biomarkers of disease risk and/or progression, would enable well-designed clinical studies, facilitate interventional trials, and aid the discovery and validation of cellular and molecular targets for novel therapies. Treatment strategies, relevant outcomes and ethical issues also need to be considered in the context of the cost-effective management of symptomatic early-stage knee OA. To move forwards, a multidisciplinary and sustained international effort involving all major stakeholders is required.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers / analysis
  • Cost of Illness
  • Disease Progression
  • Humans
  • Knee Joint / diagnostic imaging
  • Knee Joint / surgery
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Osteoarthritis, Knee* / classification
  • Osteoarthritis, Knee* / diagnosis
  • Osteoarthritis, Knee* / epidemiology
  • Osteoarthritis, Knee* / therapy
  • Risk Factors


  • Biomarkers