Published online Jul 12, 2015. doi: 10.5499/wjr.v5.i2.69
Peer-review started: November 19, 2014
First decision: February 7, 2015
Revised: February 25, 2015
Accepted: May 5, 2015
Article in press: May 6, 2015
Published online: July 12, 2015
Knee osteoarthritis (OA) is a progressive joint disease hallmarked by cartilage and bone breakdown and associated with changes to all of the tissues in the joint, ultimately causing pain, stiffness, deformity and disability in many people. Radiographs are commonly used for the clinical assessment of knee OA incidence and progression, and to assess for risk factors. One risk factor for the incidence and progression of knee OA is malalignment of the lower extremities (LE). The hip-knee-ankle (HKA) angle, assessed from a full-length LE radiograph, is ideally used to assess LE alignment. Careful attention to LE positioning is necessary to obtain the most accurate measurement of the HKA angle. Since full-length LE radiographs are not always available, the femoral shaft - tibial shaft (FS-TS) angle may be calculated from a knee radiograph instead. However, the FS-TS angle is more variable than the HKA angle and it should be used with caution. Knee radiographs are used to assess the severity of knee OA and its progression. There are three types of ordinal grading scales for knee OA: global, composite and individual feature scales. Each grade on a global scale describes one or more features of knee OA. The entire description must be met for a specific grade to be assigned. The Kellgren-Lawrence scale is the most commonly-used global scale. Composite scales grade several features of knee OA individually and sum the grades to create a total score. One example is the compartmental grading scale for knee OA. Composite scales can respond to change in a variety of presentations of knee OA. Individual feature scales assess one or more OA features individually and do not calculate a total score. They are most often used to monitor change in one OA feature, commonly joint space narrowing. The most commonly-used individual feature scale is the OA Research Society International atlas. Each type of scale has its advantages; however, composite scales may offer greater content validity. Responsiveness to change is unknown for most scales and deserves further evaluation.
Core tip: Radiographs are commonly used for the clinical assessment of knee osteoarthritis (OA) and to assess for risk factors. One risk factor for knee OA is malalignment of the lower extremities (LE). LE alignment is ideally measured from a full-length LE radiograph. While knee radiographs are sometimes used, the resulting angle is much more variable and should be used with caution. Knee radiographs are also used to assess the severity of knee OA. Global, composite and individual feature grading scales may be used. Each type of scale has its advantages; however composite scales may offer greater content validity.