MRI May Spot Arthritis Unseen by X-ray

Osteoarthritic damage detected by MRI when X ray shows no evidence of arthritis

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D

(RxWiki News) Osteoarthritis happens when joints and joint tissues wear down over time. Usually, doctors use X-ray imaging to see this joint damage. But another imaging technique may give doctors a better picture.

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) spotted many signs of knee osteoarthritis in patients that had no signs of knee osteoarthritis in X-ray images.

"See your doctor if you're experiencing joint pain."

Osteoarthritis is often called the "wear-and-tear" arthritis because it occurs when cartilage, bone and soft tissues around the joints wear down with use and time. O

Osteoarthritis is the main cause of disability in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

As much of the American population grows older, experts believe that rates of osteoarthritis will continue to grow.

Past research has found that X-rays will show signs of osteoarthritis in only half of patients with knee pain. Ali Guermazi, MD, PhD, of Boston University School of Medicine, and colleagues wanted to see if there were more ways to assess knee pain in older patients when X-rays do not show signs of osteoarthritis.

They found that MRI showed clear signs of osteoarthritis in 90 percent of patients with no signs of osteoarthritis using X-ray.

MRI also showed many abnormalities - or signs of osteoarthritis - in people who did not have knee pain. This finding suggests that MRI may not be a useful tool for diagnosing knee pain in older patients.

According to Dr. Guermazi, the results of this study show a high rate of knee osteoarthritis spotted by MRI in knees with no X-ray signs of osteoarthritis.

While MRI spotted signs of wear and tear, these signs are extremely common in people over 50 years (the age of the study population), whether or not they have knee pain. If MRI shows signs of osteoarthritis in a majority of people over 50, then it is unclear what the findings of this study mean.

More research is needed to see what amount of people with MRI signs of wear and tear are diagnosed with knee osteoarthritis later in life, said Dr. Guermazi.

Dr. Guermazi and colleagues also noted that MRI may be too expensive to use regularly on patients with knee pain.

For their study, the researchers looked at MRIs of the right knee of 710 patients over the age of 50.

The study was published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ).

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
September 11, 2012
Last Updated:
September 25, 2012