Utility of MRI for Patients 45 Years Old and Older With Hip or Knee Pain: A Systematic Review

AJR Am J Roentgenol. 2024 Apr 3. doi: 10.2214/AJR.24.30958. Online ahead of print.


Background: MRI utility for patients 45 years old and older with hip or knee pain is not well established. Objective: We performed this systematic review to assess whether MRI-diagnosed hip or knee pathology in patients 45 years old and older correlates with symptomatology or benefits from arthroscopic surgery. Evidence Acquisition: A literature search (PubMed, Web of Science, Embase) was performed through October 3, 2022, to identify original research pertaining to the study question. Publication information, study design, cohort size, osteoarthritis severity, age (range, mean), measured outcomes, minimum follow-up length, and MRI field strength were extracted. Study methods were appraised with NIH Quality Assessment Tools. Evidence Synthesis: The search yielded 1125 potential studies, of which 31 met inclusion criteria (18 knee, 13 hip). Knee studies (10 prospective, eight retrospective) included 5907 patients (age range, 45-90 years). Bone marrow edemalike lesions, joint effusions, and synovitis on MRI were associated with symptoms. In patients with osteoarthritis, meniscal tears were less likely to be symptom generators and were less likely to respond to arthroscopic surgery with osteoarthritis progression. Hip studies (11 retrospective, two prospective) included 6385 patients (age range, 50-85 years). Patients with Tonnis grade 2 osteoarthritis and lower with and without femoroacetabular impingement showed improved outcomes after arthroscopy, suggesting a role for MRI in the diagnosis of labral tears, chondral lesions, and femoroacetabular impingement. Although this group benefited from arthroscopic surgery, outcomes were inferior to those in younger patients. Variability in study characteristics, follow-up, and outcome measures precluded a meta-analysis. Conclusion: In patients 45 years old and older, several knee structural lesions on MRI correlated with symptoms, representing potential imaging biomarkers. Meniscal tear identification on MRI likely has diminished clinical value as osteoarthritis progresses. For the hip, MRI can play a role in the diagnosis of labral tears, chondral lesions, and femoroacetabular impingement in patients without advanced osteoarthritis. Clinical Impact: Several structural lesions on knee MRI correlating with symptoms may represent imaging biomarkers used as treatment targets. Osteoarthritis, not age, may play the greatest role in determining utility of MRI for patients 45 years old and older with hip or knee pain.

Publication types

  • Review