A few new criteria for early detection and prevention of early knee osteoarthritis (EKOA) have been proposed. However, its prevalence, risk factors, relationship with function and prognosis have not been clarified. The purpose of this study was to investigate the prevalence of EKOA and its risk factors in the Japanese general population.
A total of 1104 volunteers (443 males, 661 females) who participated in the Iwaki cohort study in Japan were enrolled in this cross-sectional study. Their bilateral weight-bearing anterior–posterior knee radiographs were classified by Kellgren–Lawrence (KL) grade. EKOA (KL grade 0/1) was defined according to the following criteria: knee injury and osteoarthritis outcome score < 85%, joint line tenderness, and crepitus and its prevalence among age-sex groups was calculated. Logistic regression analyses were performed to determine the risk factors for EKOA.
Eight hundred and twenty-two participants had KL grade 0/1, and the EKOA prevalence was 9.5% in males and 15.0% in females (p = 0.011). The prevalence of EKOA increased with age. The highest prevalence was noted in females aged 50–59 years. Logistic regression analysis showed that the risk factors for EKOA were age (p < 0.001, odds ratio (OR) 1.1), female sex (p = 0.002, OR 2.5), high body mass index (p < 0.001, OR 1.2), and history of knee injury (p < 0.001, OR 21.7).
The highest EKOA prevalence was observed in middle adult females (50–59 years old). The risk factors for EKOA were female sex, ageing, obesity and knee injury history, which were extremely similar to those of definitive knee osteoarthritis.