Osteoarthritis is so common (affecting 1 in 10 Canadians according to the Arthritis Society) that it has led many people to dismiss it as an inevitable part of the aging process. However, while the disease, which causes the cartilage of the joints to wear down, is not curable, it is possible to keep its severity at bay by maintaining a healthy weight, frequent moderate exercise, caring for the joints and avoiding repetitious activities and stressors.
A new study entitled MRI findings predict radiographic progression and development of erosions in hand osteoarthritis published recently in the journal Annals of Rheumatic Diseases has found that MRI is ideal for determining the progression of osteoarthritis in the hand, due to the fact that MR imaging picks up lesions in the soft tissues as well as bone structures, a benefit not possible using X-Ray.
The study, led by researchers from the Department of Radiology at the Diakonhjemmet Hospital in Oslo, Norway, watched 74 adult participants for 5 years, looking at: cartilage loss as a result of joint space narrowing, development of further joint erosions, and increasing overall osteoarthritis scores (using Kellgren-Lawrence scale).
The researchers concluded that patients with bone merrow lesions (seen only with MRI), synovitis (inflammation of the synovial membrane–also seen only with MRI) and joint space narrowing at the beginning of the study were the patients whose osteoarthritis progressed the most.
While there is no cure at this time for osteoarthritis, the sooner a patient is aware of how potentially severe it could be, the better equipped they are to begin appropriate lifestyle changes that will help them manage the onset of the disease.