To evaluate the association of fatty infiltration of the quadriceps and vastus medialis (VM) with an increase in knee cartilage, meniscus, or bone marrow lesions, using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) in knee osteoarthritis (OA) over 3 years.
Participants (n = 69) with and without radiographic knee OA underwent MRI at baseline and 3 years later. Chemical shift–based water/fat MRI was used to quantify the intramuscular fat fraction and the lean anatomical cross-sectional area (ACSA) for the VM and entire quadriceps muscles. MRI images of the knee were analyzed using the semiquantitative modified whole-organ MRI score (mWORMS) grading to assess change in lesions in the articular cartilage, meniscus, and bone marrow. Logistic regression was used to assess whether baseline quadriceps and VM fat fraction and lean ACSA were associated with an increase in mWORMS scores. Odds ratios (ORs) were adjusted for age, sex, and body mass index.
Overall, of the 69 subjects, 43 (62%) had an increase in cartilage lesions (26 of 43), meniscus lesions (19 of 43), or bone marrow lesions (22 of 43) scores. The quadriceps (OR 2.13 [95% confidence interval (95% CI) 1.09–4.15]) and VM (OR 2.05 [95% CI 1.25–3.36]) fat fraction were both associated with an increase in cartilage, meniscus, or bone marrow lesion scores over 3 years. The association of quadriceps or VM lean ACSA with the outcomes was not significant.
These longitudinal findings using quantitative MRI methods for assessment of muscle adiposity highlight the role of quadriceps adiposity, specifically in the VM, in knee OA progression. However, studies in larger cohorts are needed to confirm these findings.