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      What is the clinical and ethical importance of incidental abnormalities found by knee MRI?


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          Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is increasingly used to examine joints for research purposes. It may detect both suspected and unsuspected abnormalities. This raises both clinical and ethical issues, especially when incidental abnormalities are detected. The prevalence of incidental, potentially clinically significant abnormalities identified by MRI and their clinical significance in a population undergoing knee MRI in research studies are unknown.


          We examined the prevalence of such lesions in healthy asymptomatic adults and those with symptomatic knee osteoarthritis (OA) undergoing knee MRI with limited sequences for the purpose of research. The MRI findings in 601 asymptomatic subjects and 132 with knee OA who underwent at least one limited knee MRI scan for cartilage volume measurement were examined by an MRI radiologist for the presence of potentially clinically significant abnormalities.


          These were present in 2.3% of healthy and 2.3% of OA subjects. All required further investigation to exclude non-benign disease, including four with bone marrow expansion (0.7%), requiring further investigation and management. A single potentially life-threatening lesion, a myeloma lesion, was identified in a subject with symptomatic knee OA on their second MRI scan in a longitudinal study.


          As musculoskeletal MRI is increasingly used clinically and for research purposes, the potential for detecting unsuspected abnormalities that require further investigation should be recognized. Incorporating a system to detect these, to characterize unexpected findings, and to facilitate appropriate medical follow-up when designing studies using this technology should be considered ethical research practice.

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          Incidental findings on brain magnetic resonance imaging from 1000 asymptomatic volunteers.

          Previous reports have discussed incidental disease found on brain magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans that had been requested for an unrelated clinical concern or symptom, resulting in a selection bias for disease. However, the prevalence of unexpected abnormalities has not been studied in a healthy population. To evaluate the prevalence of incidental findings on brain MRI scans obtained for a healthy, asymptomatic population without selection bias. Retrospective analysis of brain MRI scans obtained between May 17, 1996, and July 25, 1997, from 1000 volunteers who participated as control subjects for various research protocols at the National Institutes of Health. All participants (age range, 3-83 years; 54.6% male) were determined to be healthy and asymptomatic by physician examination and participant history. Prevalence of abnormalities on brain MRI by category of finding (no referral necessary, routine referral, urgent referral [within 1 week of study], and immediate referral [within 1 to several days of study]). Eighty-two percent of the MRI results were normal. Of the 18% demonstrating incidental abnormal findings, 15.1% required no referral; 1.8%, routine referral; 1.1%, urgent referral; and 0%, immediate referral. In subjects grouped for urgent referral, 2 confirmed primary brain tumors (and a possible but unconfirmed third) were found, demonstrating a prevalence of at least 0.2%. Asymptomatic subjects present with a variety of abnormalities, providing valuable information on disease prevalence in a presumed healthy population. A small percentage of these findings require urgent medical attention and/or additional studies.
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            The relationship of antiresorptive drug use to structural findings and symptoms of knee osteoarthritis.

            To examine the cross-sectional association between use of medications that have a bone antiresorptive effect (estrogen, raloxifene, and alendronate) and both the structural features of knee osteoarthritis (OA), assessed by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and radiography, and the symptoms of knee OA in elderly women. Women in the Health, Aging and Body Composition Study underwent MRI and radiography of the knee if they reported symptoms of knee OA, and women without significant knee symptoms were selected as controls. MR images of the knee were assessed for multiple features of OA using the Whole-Organ MRI scoring method, and radiographs were read for Kellgren and Lawrence grade and individual features of OA. Concurrent medication use and knee symptoms were assessed by interview, and knee pain severity was evaluated using the Western Ontario and McMaster Universities Osteoarthritis Index (WOMAC). There were 818 postmenopausal women from whom we obtained MR images of the knee and data on medication use. Among these women, 214 (26.2%) were receiving antiresorptive drugs. We found no significant association between overall use of antiresorptive drugs and the presence of knee pain and radiographic changes of OA of the knee. Use of alendronate, but not estrogen, was associated with less severity of knee pain as assessed by WOMAC scores. Both alendronate use and estrogen use were associated with significantly less subchondral bone attrition and bone marrow edema-like abnormalities in the knee as assessed by MRI, as compared with women who had not received these medications. Elderly women being treated with alendronate and estrogen had a significantly decreased prevalence of knee OA-related subchondral bone lesions compared with those reporting no use of these medications. Alendronate use was also associated with a reduction in knee pain according to the WOMAC scores.
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              The determinants of change in tibial cartilage volume in osteoarthritic knees.

              The rate of change in osteoarthritic (OA) tibial articular cartilage and the factors that influence it are not known. We examined a cohort of subjects with OA to determine the change in articular knee cartilage volume over the course of 2 years and to identify factors which might influence such change and its rate. One hundred twenty-three subjects with OA underwent baseline knee radiography and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) on their symptomatic knee. They were followed up 2 years later with a repeat MRI of the same knee. Knee cartilage volume was measured at baseline and at followup. Risk factors assessed at baseline were tested for their association with change in knee cartilage volume over time. Mean +/- SD total tibial articular cartilage decreased by 5.3 +/- 5.2% (95% confidence interval [95% CI] 4.4%, 6.2%) per year. The annual percentages of loss of medial and lateral tibial cartilage were 4.7 +/- 6.5% (95% CI 3.6%, 5.9%) and 5.3 +/- 7.2% (95% CI 4.1%, 6.6%), respectively. Initial cartilage volume was the most significant determinant of loss of tibial cartilage in all compartments, while age was a significant determinant of lateral tibial cartilage loss, when possible confounders were accounted for. In OA, tibial cartilage volume is lost at a rate of approximately 5% per year. The main factor affecting cartilage loss is initial cartilage volume. Our results suggest that cartilage loss may be more rapid early in disease. Further study is required to determine whether the rate of cartilage loss in OA is steady or phasic, and to identify factors amenable to intervention to reduce cartilage loss.

                Author and article information

                Arthritis Res Ther
                Arthritis Research & Therapy
                BioMed Central
                5 February 2008
                : 10
                : 1
                : R18
                [1 ]Department of Medicine, Wellington School of Medicine, University of Otago, 23A Mein St, Newtown, Wellington South 6021, New Zealand
                [2 ]Malaghan Institute of Medical Research, Kelburn Parade, Wellington 6012, New Zealand
                [3 ]Department of Diagnostic Imaging, Southern Health, Clayton Road, Clayton, Victoria, 3168, Australia
                [4 ]MRI Unit, Epworth Hospital, 89 Bridge St, Richmond Victoria, 3121, Australia
                [5 ]National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia Centre of Clinical Research Excellence for the Study of Women's Health Program, Department of Medicine, Monash University Medical School, Alfred Hospital, Melbourne, Victoria, 3004, Australia
                [6 ]Departments of Medicine (RMH/WH) and Endocrinology, University of Melbourne, Western Hospital, University of Melbourne, Cnr Marian and Eleanor Streets, Footscray, Victoria, 3011, Australia
                [7 ]Baker Heart Research Institute, AMREP, Commercial Road, Melbourne, Victoria, 3004, Australia
                [8 ]Department of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine, Monash University, Alfred Hospital, Commercial Road, Melbourne, Victoria, 3004, Australia
                Copyright © 2008 Grainger et al.; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.

                This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License ( http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

                : 14 September 2007
                : 28 November 2007
                : 14 January 2008
                : 5 February 2008
                Research Article



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