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PURPOSE: Early knee OA is a significant problem that can be disabling. The purpose of this study was to understand the symptomatic profile of patients with early knee OA when compared to those with end-stage knee OA. METHODS: A cross-sectional case control study design was used to compare those with early structural change to those with advanced structural change. In total, 100 consecutive patients with early radiographic knee OA presenting to the knee service outpatient clinic from December 2010 to August 2011 were prospectively identified on the basis of their radiographic changes. All met the symptomatic and radiological diagnostic criteria of early knee OA as defined by Luyten et al. They were compared with 200 knees with full thickness anteromedial knee OA and 200 knees with full thickness tricompartmental knee OA for their demographic, pain and functional profile. RESULTS: Patients with early knee OA were younger than those with full thickness disease. However, 78% of individual patients with early radiographic OA had pain and function scores equal to individual patients presenting for UKA, whilst 74% of individual patients with early radiographic OA had pain and function scores that are equal to or worse than individual patients presenting for TKA. CONCLUSIONS: Patients with early radiographic knee OA demonstrate considerable overlap in the severity of their symptoms with those demonstrating end-stage structural changes within the knee. Patients with early structural changes of arthritis should not be assumed by clinicians to have mild disease. In many cases, their symptoms are as bad as those with end-stage structural changes. This work will help clinicians to identify and categorise those with early arthritis and thereby assist in guiding appropriate treatments.

Original publication




Journal article


Knee surg sports traumatol arthrosc

Publication Date





161 - 168


Early osteoarthritis, Symptoms, Aged, Arthralgia, Case-Control Studies, Cross-Sectional Studies, Female, Humans, Knee Joint, Male, Middle Aged, Osteoarthritis, Knee, Radiography