Structural phenotypes of knee osteoarthritis: potential clinical and research relevance

Frank W. Roemer, Mohamed Jarraya, Jamie E. Collins, C. Kent Kwoh, Daichi Hayashi, David J. Hunter, Ali Guermazi

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


A joint contains many different tissues that can exhibit pathological changes, providing many potential targets for treatment. Researchers are increasingly suggesting that osteoarthritis (OA) comprises several phenotypes or subpopulations. Consequently, a treatment for OA that targets only one pathophysiologic abnormality is unlikely to be similarly efficacious in preventing or delaying the progression of all the different phenotypes of structural OA. Five structural phenotypes have been proposed, namely the inflammatory, meniscus-cartilage, subchondral bone, and atrophic and hypertrophic phenotypes. The inflammatory phenotype is characterized by marked synovitis and/or joint effusion, while the meniscus-cartilage phenotype exhibits severe meniscal and cartilage damage. Large bone marrow lesions characterize the subchondral bone phenotype. The hypertrophic and atrophic OA phenotype are defined based on the presence large osteophytes or absence of any osteophytes, respectively, in the presence of concomitant cartilage damage. Limitations of the concept of structural phenotyping are that they are not mutually exclusive and that more than one phenotype may be present. It must be acknowledged that a wide range of views exist on how best to operationalize the concept of structural OA phenotypes and that the concept of structural phenotypic characterization is still in its infancy. Structural phenotypic stratification, however, may result in more targeted trial populations with successful outcomes and practitioners need to be aware of the heterogeneity of the disease to personalize their treatment recommendations for an individual patient. Radiologists should be able to define a joint at risk for progression based on the predominant phenotype present at different disease stages.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2021-2030
Number of pages10
JournalSkeletal Radiology
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2023


  • Clinical trial
  • MRI
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Phenotypes
  • Structure

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging


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