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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Northwestern: Predicting Risk of Disability From Knee Osteoarthritis

Northwestern Medicine scientists have developed and validated a tool to predict which patients with pre-osteoarthritis are at high risk for developing disability in the future. Such information could prompt patients not yet afflicted with knee osteoarthritis to take steps to prevent disability.

“Prevention at this early stage could have dramatic effects on the course of an individual life and on the overall burden of knee osteoarthritis disability to society,” said Dr. Leena Sharma, the Chang-Lee Professor of Preventive Rheumatology and lead author of the study published in Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases.

Osteoarthritis is the most common form of human arthritis, and knee osteoarthritis in particular is a major cause of disability in older adults.

Strategies that can help prevent disability — such as increasing physical activity — become more difficult once patients have already developed knee osteoarthritis, due to pain and joint damage associated with the disease.

As such, focusing prevention strategies on people with pre-osteoarthritis — who are at high risk for knee osteoarthritis, but do not yet have established disease — may be a more effective approach. However, the population of adults with pre-osteoarthritis is large, and there is currently no reliable method to predict which patients are most at risk for developing disability in the future.

In the current study, investigators created and validated risk stratification trees, where patients are subdivided into branches based on their attributes.

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