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Population prevalence of ultrasound features of osteoarthritis in the hand, knee and hip at age 63 years: the Newcastle thousand families birth cohort

Ajay M Abraham12, Mark S Pearce2*, Kay D Mann2, Roger M Francis4 and Fraser Birrell13

Author Affiliations

1 Northumbria Healthcare NHS Trust, Northumberland, UK

2 Institute of Health & Society, Newcastle University, Newcastle upon Tyne NE1 4LP, UK

3 Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK

4 Institute for Ageing and Health, Newcastle University, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK

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BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders 2014, 15:162  doi:10.1186/1471-2474-15-162

Published: 19 May 2014



Musculoskeletal ultrasound has been found to be more sensitive than radiographs in detecting osteophytes. Our objective was to measure the prevalence of features of osteoarthritis (OA), in the dominant hand, knees and hips using ultrasound, within the Newcastle Thousand Families birth cohort.


Participants were aged 61–63 (mean 63) years. Knee images were scored for presence of osteophytes and effusion. Hip images were scored for the presence of osteophytes and femoral head abnormality. The first carpometacarpal joint, metacarpophalangeal, proximal interphalangeal and distal interphalangeal joints of the index finger (dominant hand) were imaged for osteophytes.


Among 311 participants, prevalence of osteophytes at the distal interphalangeal joint was 70% while it was 23%, 10% and 41% for index proximal interphalangeal and metacarpophalangeal and thumb base carpometacarpal joints respectively. Prevalence of knee osteophytes was 30%, hip OA was 41%. Prevalence of knee effusions was 24% (right) and 20% (left). Ultrasound evidence of generalised OA (48%) and isolated hand OA (31%) was common, compared to isolated hip or knee OA (5%) and both hip and knee OA (3%).


This is the first study to assess prevalence of ultrasound features of OA in a population-based sample. The higher prevalence of hand/hip OA, when compared to previous radiographic studies, supports the hypothesis that ultrasound is more sensitive than radiography in detecting OA, particularly for osteophytes.

Osteoarthritis; Ultrasonography; Prevalence; Epidemiology