Objective Increasing evidence suggests a role of vascular pathology in the pathogenesis of osteoarthritis. This study examined the association between popliteal artery wall thickness, a surrogate marker of cardiovascular disease, and knee cartilage volume loss in an asymptomatic cohort of women. Study design Prospective cohort study of 170 women with no significant knee pain, injury, or history of clinical knee disease. Participants underwent knee magnetic resonance imaging at baseline and 2 years later. Popliteal artery wall thickness was assessed using validated methods. Main outcome measures Tibial cartilage volume assessed using validated methods. Results 142 women (83.5%) completed 2-year follow-up. After adjusting for age, body mass index and tibial bone area, greater popliteal artery wall thickness was associated with increased rate of medial tibial cartilage volume loss. With increasing tertiles of popliteal artery wall thickness, the mean (standard error) of annual medial tibial cartilage volume loss was 1.62 (0.45)%, 2.18 (0.43)%, and 2.98 (0.48)%, respectively, p for trend = 0.04. No significant association was observed in lateral tibial cartilage. Conclusion In community-based women greater popliteal artery wall thickness is associated with increased rate of tibial cartilage volume loss over 2 years. These findings suggest an adverse effect of vascular pathology on articular knee cartilage, supporting the hypothesis that there might be a vascular contribution to the development of knee osteoarthritis. Although needing to be confirmed in other studies, these results suggest that targeting vascular pathology may provide a potential target for the prevention and early treatment of knee osteoarthritis in women.
- Magnetic resonance imaging
- Popliteal artery wall thickness