Association of age, sex and BMI with the rate of change in tibial cartilage volume: A 10.7-year longitudinal cohort study

Guoqi Cai, Matthew Jiang, Flavia Cicuttini, Graeme Jones

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Background: To describe the association of age, sex and body mass index with the rate of change of tibial knee cartilage volume over 10.7 years in a community-based sample of older adults. Methods: Four hundred and eighty-one participants (49% female, mean age 60.8 years [range 51.1-79.7], 49% had knee pain and 58% radiographic osteoarthritis) were included. Tibial cartilage volume of the right knee was assessed on T1-weighted fat-suppressed 1.5 T MRI at baseline and 10.7 years. Data analyses were performed using linear regression models. Results: The average rate of loss of cartilage volume was 1.2%/year (range 0.2-3.9%) with all participants losing cartilage volume over the study period. There was a significant association between age and loss of tibial cartilage volume in the medial (0.023%/year, 95% confidence interval [CI] 0.010 to 0.036%, p < 0.001), lateral (0.013%/year, 95% CI 0.003 to 0.023%, p = 0.012) and total tibia (0.018%/year, 95% CI 0.009 to 0.026%, p < 0.001). Higher body mass index at baseline and increases in body mass index over time were associated with a greater tibial cartilage loss at the medial (body mass index at baseline 0.040%/year, 95% CI 0.022 to 0.058%, p < 0.001; increases in body mass index 0.055%/year, 95% CI 0.018 to 0.093%, p = 0.004) but not lateral compartment. No evidence of non-linear relationships was observed. Compared to males, females lost more lateral tibial cartilage with increasing age (0.023%/year, 95% CI 0.003 to 0.043%, p = 0.024 for interaction). Conclusions: Tibial cartilage volume declines at a faster rate with increasing age and body mass index in both males and females, particularly in the medial compartment. In contrast to the low rate of change in radiographs, our findings suggest that cartilage loss at the tibia is universal in this age group.

Original languageEnglish
Article number273
Number of pages11
JournalArthritis Research and Therapy
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 9 Dec 2019


  • Age
  • Cartilage volume
  • Magnetic resonance imaging
  • Osteoarthritis

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