Knee-alignment May Predict Osteoarthritis Development

August 20, 2010

Those with outward facing alignment-knees relatively far apart and ankles closer together have a higher risk of developing osteoarthritis, according to a study published in Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases.

Those with outward facing alignment-knees relatively far apart and ankles closer together have a higher risk of developing osteoarthritis, according to a study published in Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases.

The alignment is known as varus alignment and occurs when the knee configuration resembles a less extreme version of bowleggedness. The study took 2.5 years to complete and included nearly 3,000 people.

Earlier findings confirmed that both varus alignment and valgus alignment, or inner facing, contribute to worsening of the condition on the side of the knee bearing more stress.

The study followed 2,713 volunteers, aged 50-79, that either had arthritis or who were at increased risk of developing the condition.

The team used X-rays of the participants' legs to measure different angles related to the knees. The team deemed a patient as having valgus alignment or varus alignment depending on whether there was a more than two degree shift in either direction from the 180 degree straight leg alignment. The participants were X-rayed once at the start of the study then 2.5 years after.

According to the results of the study, varus stance was associated with 1.49 times the risk of developing arthritis compared with the straight-legged stance and there was no increased risk with the valgus stance.

"Our results suggest the need to design interventions for people with varus alignment, in hopes of redistributing stress and possibly helping to prevent knee arthritis before it develops," said Leena Sharma, MD, Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine, Chicago, Illinois, in a press release.