What is the role of radiography in the diagnosis of osteoarthritis (OA)?

Updated: Jun 10, 2020
  • Author: Carlos J Lozada, MD; Chief Editor: Herbert S Diamond, MD  more...
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Answer

Plain radiography is the imaging method of choice because it is more cost-effective than other modalities and because radiographs can be obtained more readily and quickly. [5, 8] One important characteristic of primary osteoarthritis is that the abnormalities found in the load-bearing (ie, highly stressed) areas of the affected joint differ from those found in the non–load-bearing areas. In the load-bearing areas, radiographs can depict joint-space loss, as well as subchondral bony sclerosis and cyst formation (see the image below).

This radiograph demonstrates osteoarthritis of the This radiograph demonstrates osteoarthritis of the right hip, including the finding of sclerosis at the superior aspect of the acetabulum. Frequently, osteoarthritis at the hip is a bilateral finding, but it may occur unilaterally in an individual who has a previous history of hip trauma that was confined to that one side.

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