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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

The discordance between clinical and radiographic knee osteoarthritis: A systematic search and summary of the literature

John Bedson* and Peter R Croft

Author Affiliations

Arthritis Research Campaign National Primary Care Centre, Keele University, Staffordshire, ST5 5BG, United Kingdom

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BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders 2008, 9:116  doi:10.1186/1471-2474-9-116

Published: 2 September 2008

Abstract

Background

Studies have suggested that the symptoms of knee osteoarthritis (OA) are rather weakly associated with radiographic findings and vice versa. Our objectives were to identify estimates of the prevalence of radiographic knee OA in adults with knee pain and of knee pain in adults with radiographic knee OA, and determine if the definitions of x ray osteoarthritis and symptoms, and variation in demographic factors influence these estimates.

Methods

A systematic literature search identifying population studies which combined x rays, diagnosis, clinical signs and symptoms in knee OA. Estimates of the prevalence of radiographic OA in people with knee pain were determined and vice versa. In addition the effects of influencing factors were scrutinised.

Results

The proportion of those with knee pain found to have radiographic osteoarthritis ranged from 15–76%, and in those with radiographic knee OA the proportion with pain ranged from 15% – 81%. Considerable variation occurred with x ray view, pain definition, OA grading and demographic factors

Conclusion

Knee pain is an imprecise marker of radiographic knee osteoarthritis but this depends on the extent of radiographic views used. Radiographic knee osteoarthritis is likewise an imprecise guide to the likelihood that knee pain or disability will be present. Both associations are affected by the definition of pain used and the nature of the study group. The results of knee x rays should not be used in isolation when assessing individual patients with knee pain.