Associations between systemic bone mineral density and early knee cartilage changes in middle-aged adults without clinical knee disease: A prospective cohort study

Andrew J. Teichtahl, Yuanyuan Wang, Anita E. Wluka, Boyd J. Strauss, Joseph Proietto, John B. Dixon, Graeme Jones, Flavia M. Cicuttini

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Background: Osteoarthritis has a high prevalence in people with high bone mineral density (BMD). Nevertheless, whether high systemic BMD predates early structural features of knee osteoarthritis is unclear. This study examined the association between systemic BMD and knee cartilage defect progression and cartilage volume loss in middle-aged people without clinical knee disease. Methods: Adults (n = 153) aged 25-60 years had total body, lumbar spine, and total hip BMD assessed by dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry at baseline (2005-2008), and tibial cartilage volume and tibiofemoral cartilage defects assessed by magnetic resonance imaging at baseline and follow up (2008-2010). Results: Higher spine BMD was associated with increased risk for progression of medial (OR = 1.45, 95% CI 1.10, 1.91) and lateral (OR = 1.30, 95% CI 1.00, 1.67) tibiofemoral cartilage defects. Total hip BMD was also positively associated with the progression of medial (OR = 1.63, 95% CI 1.10, 2.41) and lateral (OR = 1.53, 95% CI 1.08, 2.18) tibiofemoral cartilage defects. Greater total body, spine, and total hip BMD were associated with increased rate of lateral tibial cartilage volume loss (for every 1 g/10 cm2 increase in total body BMD: B = 0.44%, 95% CI 0.17%, 0.71%; spine BMD: 0.17%, 95% CI 0.04%, 0.30%; total hip BMD: 0.29%, 95% CI 0.13%, 0.45%), with no significant associations for medial tibial cartilage volume loss. Conclusion: In middle-aged people without clinical knee disease, higher systemic BMD was associated with increased early knee cartilage damage. Further work is needed to clarify the effect of systemic BMD at different stages of the pathway from health through to disease in knee osteoarthritis, as new therapies targeting bone are developed for the management of knee osteoarthritis.

Original languageEnglish
Article number98
Number of pages11
JournalArthritis Research & Therapy
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 18 May 2017


  • Bone mineral density
  • Cartilage defects
  • Cartilage volume
  • Knee
  • Osteoarthritis

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