The Value of Phenotypes in Knee Osteoarthritis Research

Fred R T Nelson, * Open Modal Authors Info & Affiliations
The Open Orthopaedics Journal 16 Mar 2018 REVIEW ARTICLE DOI: 10.2174/1874325001812010105



Over the past decade, phenotypes have been used to help categorize knee osteoarthritis patients relative to being subject to disease, disease progression, and treatment response. A review of potential phenotype selection is now appropriate. The appeal of using phenotypes is that they most rely on simple physical examination, clinically routine imaging, and demographics. The purpose of this review is to describe the panoply of phenotypes that can be potentially used in osteoarthritis research.


A search of PubMed was used singularly to review the literature on knee osteoarthritis phenotypes.


Four phenotype assembly groups were based on physical features and noninvasive imaging. Demographics included metabolic syndrome (dyslipidemia, hypertension, obesity, and diabetes). Mechanical characteristics included joint morphology, alignment, the effect of injury, and past and present history. Associated musculoskeletal disorder characteristics included multiple joint involvement, spine disorders, neuromuscular diseases, and osteoporosis. With the knee as an organ, tissue characteristics were used to focus on synovium, meniscus, articular cartilage, patella fat pad, bone sclerosis, bone cysts, and location of pain.


Many of these phenotype clusters require further validation studies. There is special emphasis on knee osteoarthritis phenotypes due to its predominance in osteoarthritic disorders and the variety of tissues in that joint. More research will be required to determine the most productive phenotypes for future studies.


The selection and assignment of phenotypes will take on an increasing role in osteoarthritis research in the future.

Keywords: Osteoarthritis, Physical features, Phenotype, Imaging, Progression, Knee, Phenotype, Classification Phenotype in knee osteoarthritis.
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