Knee osteoarthritis (OA) is a common form of arthritis that causes joint pain and stiffness. It is a progressive disease in which the joint cartilage gradually wears away and may lead to disability.
Bone marrow lesions or BMLs are strong predictors of osteoarthritic cartilage damage. Bone marrow lesions are visible on an MRI but not in a regular X-ray. BMLs are sites of chronic inflammation of subchondral bone. They lie below the bone surface within the marrow and are accompanied by swelling and fluid collection (edema). BMLs are associated with subchondral defects, insufficiency fractures and stress fractures.
Conservative treatments for BMLs include pain medications, knee braces, crutches, and physical therapy. However, long lasting (chronic) BMLs that do not heal by themselves will require treatment. Patients with chronic BMLs have faster cartilage destruction and are more likely to require a total knee replacement, earlier.