BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders 2019 20:14

Knee osteoarthritis patients with more subchondral cysts have altered tibial subchondral bone mineral density

Wadena D. Burnett, Saija A. Kontulainen, Christine E. McLennan, Diane Hazel, Carl Talmo, David R. Wilson, David J. Hunter and James D. Johnston
Knee

Background

Subchondral bone cysts are a widely observed, but poorly understood, feature in patients with knee osteoarthritis (OA). Clinical quantitative computed tomography (QCT) has the potential to characterize cysts in vivo but it is unclear which specific cyst parameters (e.g., number, size) are associated with clinical signs of OA, such as disease severity or pain. The objective of this study was to use QCT-based image-processing techniques to characterize subchondral tibial cysts in patients with knee OA and to explore relationships between proximal tibial subchondral cyst parameters and subchondral bone density as well as clinical characteristics of OA (alignment, joint space narrowing (JSN), OA severity, pain) in patients with knee OA.

Methods

The preoperative knee of 42 knee arthroplasty patients was scanned using QCT. Patient characteristics were obtained, including OA severity, knee pain, JSN, and alignment. We used 3D image processing techniques to obtain cyst parameters including: cyst number, cyst number per proximal tibial volume, cyst volume per proximal tibial volume, as well as maximum and average cyst volume across the proximal tibia, as well as regional bone mineral density (BMD) excluding cysts. We used Spearman’s correlation coefficients to explore associations between patient characteristics and cyst parameters.

Results

At both the medial and lateral compartments of the proximal tibia, greater cyst number and volume were associated with higher BMD. At the lateral region, cyst number and volume were also associated with lateral OA severity, lateral JSN, alignment and sex. Pain was not associated with any cyst parameters at any region.

Conclusion

Cyst number and volume were associated with BMD at both the medial and lateral compartments. Lateral cyst number and volume were also associated with joint alignment, OA severity, JSN and sex. This is the first study to use clinical QCT to explore subchondral tibial cysts in patients with knee OA and provides further evidence of the relationships between subchondral cysts and clinical OA characteristics.


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