Objective: To assess whether quantitative changes in the meniscus predict progression from early knee osteoarthritis (OA) to knee replacement (KR). Methods: A nested case–control study was conducted among Osteoarthritis Initiative participants: all 35 case knees with baseline Kellgren/Lawrence (K/L) grade ≤2 that had KR between 36 and 60 months were matched 1:1 by age, sex, and baseline K/L grade to 35 control knees without subsequent KR. Quantitative 3-dimensional medial meniscus position and morphologic measures were determined from magnetic resonance imaging at the visit just before KR and 2 years before. Paired t-tests and case–control odds ratios (ORs, standardized per SD of change in controls) were used to compare changes between groups. Results: Cases (52% women, age 65 ± 7 years, body mass index [BMI] 30 ± 4 kg/m2, K/L grades 0/1/2: 5/8/22 participants, respectively) and controls (52% women, age 64 ± 7 years, BMI 30 ± 5 kg/m2, K/L grades 0/1/2: 9/4/22 participants, respectively) were similar. Compared to control knees, KR case knees displayed longitudinal changes, specifically, a decrease in tibial plateau coverage, an increase in meniscal extrusion, and a decrease in meniscal width. The odds for KR increased with greater reduction in the percentage of tibial plateau coverage (OR 2.28 [95% CI confidence interval (95% CI) 1.43, 3.64]), a greater increase in maximal extrusion (OR 1.40 [95% CI 1.12, 1.75]), and a greater reduction of mean meniscal width (OR 2.01 [95% CI 1.23, 3.26]). The odds for KR increased with medial compartment cartilage thickness loss (OR 2.86 [95% CI 1.51, 5.41]) for comparison. Conclusion: Quantitative measures of meniscal position and morphology are associated with subsequent KR in knees with rapidly progressing knee OA. These findings show that structural changes of the meniscus are related to an important clinical and economic outcome of knee OA.
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