Objective. Little is known about the natural history of knee osteoarthritis (OA). We sought to identify common patterns of joint space narrowing (JSN) in well-characterized knee OA patients in the placebo arm of a 2-year international study. Methods. We performed secondary data analyses of 622 adults ages 39-80 years in North America (n = 310) and Europe (n = 312) with symptomatic knee OA. Fluoroscopically positioned semiflexed anteroposterior radiographs were obtained at 0, 12, and 24 months. Group-based trajectory modeling was used to identify distinctive groups of individuals with similar trajectories of JSN, taking into account sex, age, and body mass index. Results. Seven groups were identified. Four exhibited joint space width (JSW) stability over 2 years representing the most common trajectory (71%), which was unrelated to initial JSW. Atypical courses included slow, rapid, and moderate progressors; most had significant JSN at study entry. Slow progressors (20%) had a mean JSN of 0.2 mm over 2 years. Only 2% of the sample demonstrated rapid JSN (2.1 mm), while 7% had JSN of 0.7 mm. Rapid progressors tended to be men, while slow and moderate progressors were older and heavier. Conclusion. Most (70%) people with OA demonstrated no significant JSN over 2 years; 20% showed slow progression, 7% had moderate, and 2% had rapid JSN. Progressors tended to have less JSW at study entry and were older and heavier; rapid progressors were more likely to be men. Understanding common patterns of the course of knee OA may offer new opportunities to target those at greatest risk of disability.
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