Identification of Bone Marrow Lesions May Permit Better, More Targeted Therapies

A new study conducted at the Medical Research Council Lifecourse Epidemiology Unit, University of Southampton, reports that MRI scans can help to identify lesions that are risk factors for the development of rapidly progressing osteoarthritis. Patients with bone marrow lesions (BMLs) on their MRI scan were found to have osteoarthritis that progressed more rapidly than those that did not. These lesions show up on MRI scans as regions of bone below the cartilage with ill-defined high signal. The study team asserts that targeting these abnormalities may be beneficial in impeding the progression of osteoarthritis. The study was published online last week in journal of Rheumatology.

Osteoarthritis causes joint pain and stiffness, and is an extremely common form of arthritis. It can progress at varying speeds, and most often impacts the knees and hips, as well as small joints of the hand. In the study, MRI scans were performed on the knees of 176 men and women over 50 years old. Knee x-rays were taken for an average of 3 years thereafter, and those from patients with MRI-identified lesions were compared to those with no lesions. On average the cohort with BMLs lost space within the knee joint at a faster rate than those without BMLs. This space reduction can trigger the need for joint replacement or other intervention.

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Read a news story about the findings here.

The journal abstract may be read here.


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