Quadriceps intramuscular fat fraction rather than muscle size is associated with knee osteoarthritis

D. Kumar, D. C. Karampinos, T. D. MacLeod, W. Lin, Lorenzo Nardo, X. Li, T. M. Link, S. Majumdar, R. B. Souza

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

74 Scopus citations


Objectives: To compare thigh muscle intramuscular fat (intraMF) fractions and area between people with and without knee radiographic osteoarthritis (ROA); and to evaluate the relationships of quadriceps adiposity and area with strength, function and knee magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) lesions. Methods: Ninety six subjects (ROA: Kellgren-Lawrence (KL)>1; n=30, control: KL=0, 1; n=66) underwent 3-TMRI of the thigh muscles using chemical shift-based water/fat MRI (fat fractions) and the knee (clinical grading). Subjects were assessed for isometric/isokinetic quadriceps/hamstrings strength, function Knee injury and Osteoarthritis Outcome Score (KOOS), stair climbing test (SCT), and 6-minute walk test (6MWT). Thigh muscle intraMF fractions, muscle area and strength, and function were compared between controls and ROA subjects, adjusting for age. Relationships between measures of muscle fat/area with strength, function, KL and lesion scores were assessed using regression and correlational analyses. Results: The ROA group had worse KOOS scores but SCT and 6MWT were not different. The ROA group had greater quadriceps intraMF fraction but not for other muscles. Quadriceps strength was lower in ROA group but the area was not different. Quadriceps intraMF fraction but not area predicted self-reported disability. Aging, worse KL, and cartilage and meniscus lesions were associated with higher quadriceps intraMF fraction. Conclusion: Quadriceps intraMF is higher in people with knee OA and is related to symptomatic and structural severity of knee OA, whereas the quadriceps area is not. Quadriceps fat fraction from chemical shift-based water/fat MR imaging may have utility as a marker of structural and symptomatic severity of knee OA disease process.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)226-234
Number of pages9
JournalOsteoarthritis and Cartilage
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Cartilage
  • Hamstrings
  • Quadriceps strength
  • Water/fat imaging

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Rheumatology
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Biomedical Engineering


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