The prevalence of mild and severe radiological osteoarthritis was investigated in a random sample of 6585 inhabitants of a Dutch village. Radiographs were graded 0-4 according to the criteria described by Kellgren and Lawrence. The prevalence of radiological osteoarthritis increased strongly with age and was highest for cervical spine (peak: men 84.8%, women 84.3%), lumbar spine (peak: 71.9%, women 67.3%), and distal interphalangeal joints of the hands (peak: men 64.4%, women 76%). Prevalence did not exceed 10% in sacroiliac joints, lateral carpometacarpal joints, and tarsometatarsal joints. Severe radiological osteoarthritis (grade 3 or grade 4) was uncommon under age 45; in elderly persons the prevalence of severe radiological osteoarthritis did not exceed 20% except for the cervical and lumbar spine, distal interphalangeal joints of the hands and, in women only, metacarpophalangeal joints, first carpometacarpal joints, first metatarsophalangeal joints, and knees. Overall, differences between men and women were small except for hips and knees; however, severe radiological osteoarthritis was found in a higher proportion in most of the joints in women. Our data were compared with data from similar population surveys. The slope between joint involvement and age was strikingly constant for most of the joints. Differences between populations were mainly differences in level. These differences of prevalence of radiological osteoarthritis may be attributed to interobserver differences--that is, different criteria used to establish radiological osteoarthritis, in addition to genetic or environmental factors, or both.
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