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Vastus medialis intramuscular fat is associated with reduced quadriceps strength, but not knee osteoarthritis severity

      Highlights

      • Vastus medialis intramuscular fat did not differ between knee osteoarthritis groups
      • Higher intramuscular fat was not associated with knee osteoarthritis severity
      • Higher intramuscular fat was associated with reduced quadriceps muscle torque
      • Vastus medialis intramuscular fat may impair quadriceps muscle strength

      Abstract

      Background

      Vastus medialis intramuscular fat has been proposed to be a modifiable determinant of knee cartilage loss in patients with knee osteoarthritis. The objective was to determine whether vastus medialis intramuscular fat relates to osteoarthritis severity and quadriceps muscle strength in patients with non-traumatic and post-traumatic knee osteoarthritis.

      Methods

      For this cross-sectional study, participants with knee osteoarthritis were classified into two groups: non-traumatic (n = 22; mean age = 60 years) and post-traumatic (n = 19; mean age = 56 years). Healthy adults were included (n = 22; mean age = 59 years). A 3-Tesla magnetic resonance imaging was used to measure vastus medialis cross-sectional area and intramuscular fat. Isometric knee extensor muscle torque was assessed using an isokinetic dynamometer and normalized to body mass (Nm/kg). Knee osteoarthritis severity was assessed using standing antero-posterior radiographs (Kellgren-Lawrence scores). Regression analyses examined relationships between 1) vastus medialis intramuscular fat with knee osteoarthritis severity and osteoarthritis group, after accounting for sex and body mass index, and 2) knee extensor muscle torque with vastus medialis intramuscular fat, after accounting for sex and vastus medialis cross-sectional area.

      Findings

      Vastus medialis intramuscular fat was positively associated with body mass index (B = 0.321, P < 0.001), but not with osteoarthritis severity or group (P > 0.05). Higher vastus medialis intramuscular fat was associated with reduced knee extensor muscle torque (B = -0.040, P = 0.018).

      Interpretation

      Greater vastus medialis intramuscular fat was associated with lower quadriceps muscle strength in patients with knee OA. It is unclear whether this is due to the accumulation of vastus medialis intramuscular fat or other potential factors, such as diet and physical inactivity.

      Keywords

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