Objective. Knee osteoarthritis (OA) is highly prevalent, especially in the elderly. Preventive strategies require a knowledge of risk factors that precede disease onset. The present study was conducted to determine the longitudinal risk factors for knee OA in an elderly population.
Methods. A longitudinal study of knee OA involving members of the Framingham Study cohort was performed. Weight-bearing knee radiographs were obtained in 1983–1985 (baseline) and again in 1992–1993. Incident disease was defined as the occurrence of new radiographic OA (Kellgren and Lawrence grade ⩾2 on a 0–4 scale) in those without radiographic OA at baseline. Risk factors assessed at baseline and in the interim were tested in univariate and multivariate equations to evaluate their association with incident knee OA.
Results. Of 598 patients without knee OA at baseline (mean age 70.5 years, 63.7% women), 93 (15.6%) developed OA. After adjustment for multiple risk factors, women had a higher risk of OA than did men (adjusted odds ratio [OR] = 1.8, 95% confidence interval [95% CI] 1.1–3.1). Higher baseline body mass index increased the risk of OA (OR = 1.6 per 5-unit increase, 95% CI 1.2–2.2), and weight change was directly correlated with the risk of OA (OR = 1.4 per 10-lb change in weight, 95% CI 1.1–1.8). Physical activity increased the risk of OA (for those in the highest quartile, OR = 3.3, 95% CI 1.4–7.5). Smokers had a lower risk than did nonsmokers (for those who smoked an average of ⩾10 cigarettes/day, OR = 0.4, 95% CI 0.2–0.8). Factors not associated with the risk of OA included chondrocalcinosis and a history of hand OA. Weight-related factors affected the risk of OA only in women.
Conclusion. Elderly persons at high risk of developing radiographic knee OA included obese persons, nonsmokers, and those who were physically active. The direction of weight change correlated directly with the risk of developing OA.