Objective: To develop a whole-joint, unidimensional, irreversible, and fine-grained MRI knee osteoarthritis (OA) severity score, based on cartilage, osteophytes and meniscus (OA-COM), and to predict progression across different severity states using OA-COM as outcome and clinical variables as predictors.
Methods: Population-based knee pain cohort aged 40-79 was assessed at baseline and 7-year follow-up. OA-COM score was defined as the sum of MRI scores for cartilage, osteophytes and menisci, measured at 6, 8 and 6 sites, total score 0-54. To anchor severity levels, we fit cross-sectional logistic models using OA-COM to predict Kellgren-Lawrence (KL) grades in subsets at or one point below each grade. OA-COM threshold scores were selected on sensitivity, specificity, positive and negative predictive value. We developed longitudinal logistic models for OA-COM progression over each threshold over 7 years. Potential predictors included age, sex, BMI, malalignment, physical exam effusion, quadriceps weakness, and crepitus, selected on area under the receiver operating characteristic curve (AUC) and Akaike's Information Criterion (AIC).
Results: Optimal OA-COM thresholds were 12, 18, 24 and 30, for KL grades 1 to 4. Significant predictors of progression (depending on threshold) included physical exam effusion, malalignment and female sex, with other selected predictors age, BMI and crepitus.
Conclusion: OA-COM (0-54 range) is a whole-joint, unidimensional, irreversible, and fine-grained MRI OA severity score reflecting cartilage, osteophytes and menisci. OA-COM scores 12, 18, 24 and 30 are equivalent to KL grades 1 to 4, while offering fine-grained differentiation of states between KL grades, and within pre-radiographic disease (KL = 0) or late-stage disease (KL = 4). In modeling, several clinical variables predicted progression across different states over 7 years.