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The Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery British Volume
Vol. 85-B, Issue 7 | Pages 983 - 988
1 Sep 2003
Satku K Kumar VP Chong SM Thambyah A

The natural history of spontaneous osteonecrosis of the medial tibial plateau remains controversial and incomplete. We have studied 21 patients (aged between 53 and 77 years) with clinical and scintigraphic features of spontaneous osteonecrosis of the medial tibial plateau who were observed prospectively for at least three years (37 months to 8.5 years). The mean duration of follow-up was 5.6 years.

The mean duration of symptoms at presentation was 4.7 weeks (3 days to 12 weeks). Radiographs of the affected knee at the first visit were normal in 15 patients and mildly arthritic in six. The characteristic radiographic lesion of osteonecrosis was noted at presentation in five of the mildly arthritic knees and during the evolution of the disease in eight of the radiographically normal knees. During the follow-up, subchondral sclerosis of the affected medial tibial plateau was noted in 16 knees.

There are three distinct patterns of outcome: 1) acute extensive collapse of the medial tibial plateau in two knees within three months of onset; 2) rapid progression to varying degrees of osteoarthritis in 12 knees, in eight within a year, in all within two years and deterioration of the pre-existing osteoarthritis in three; and 3) complete resolution in four knees, two of which were normal at presentation and two mildly osteoarthritic.

The two patients with acute extensive collapse and three who had rapid progression to severe osteoarthritis required total knee arthroplasty.

We conclude that osteonecrosis of the medial tibial plateau progresses in most cases to significant degenerative disease of the knee.