Are Osteophytes Good or Bad?

ACR Special Reports


The osteophyte, an outgrowth of cartilage and bone, is one of the interesting hallmarks of osteoarthritis. Its possible effect on disease progression was the subject of a study presented at the recent ACR in Orlando.

In a careful study of the knees of more than 300 subjects by systematic radiographs, osteophytes, alignment and disease progression were assessed over a 2 ½ year period. Interestingly, a higher score for medial osteophytes was associated with an increased risk of progression of osteoarthritis there. Whereas a higher score for lateral osteophytes lowered this risk. The same was true in the lateral compartment, i.e. lateral osteophyte presence was associated with more lateral disease, and medial osteophytes with less.

Why the presence of contralateral osteophytes might be protective remains unknown, although it is possible they may stabilize stresses upon the joint. This is a provocative study that will require further exploration and development.

Karlson EW, Liang MH, Eaton H, Huang J, Fitzgerald L, Rogers MP, Daltroy LH. A Randomized Clinical Trial of a Psychoeducational Intervention to Improve Outcomes in SLE. Arthritis Rheum. 2003 Sep;48(9):S645.
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