Magnetic Resonance

European Radiology

, Volume 22, Issue 3, pp 672-681

First online:

Obesity-related juvenile form of cartilage lesions: a new affliction in the knees of morbidly obese children and adolescents

  • Harald K. WidhalmAffiliated withCenter for Joints and Cartilage, Department of Traumatology, Medical University of Vienna Email author 
  • , Stefan MarlovitsAffiliated withCenter for Joints and Cartilage, Department of Traumatology, Medical University of Vienna
  • , Goetz H. WelschAffiliated withMR Center, Department of Radiology, Medical University of ViennaDepartment of Trauma Surgery, University Hospital of Erlangen
  • , Albert DirisamerAffiliated withDepartment of Radiology, Medical University of Vienna
  • , Andreas NeuholdAffiliated withDepartment of Radiology, Private Hospital Rudolfinerhaus
  • , Martijn van GriensvenAffiliated withLudwig Boltzmann Institute for Experimental and Clinical Traumatology
  • , Rudolf SeemannAffiliated withDepartment of Cranio-Maxillofacial and Oral Surgery, Medical University of Vienna
  • , Vilmos VécseiAffiliated withCenter for Joints and Cartilage, Department of Traumatology, Medical University of Vienna
  • , Kurt WidhalmAffiliated withDivision of Nutrition and Metabolism, Department of Pediatrics, Medical University of Vienna

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Overweight and obesity are afflictions that lead to an increased risk of health problems including joint problems. The aim of the study was to assess the condition of articular cartilage in obese adolescent patients suffering from knee pain.


MRI of 24 knees of 20 morbidly obese patients, mean age 14.2 years, was performed in an open 1.0 Tesla MR system, where the cartilage, the quality and structure of the menisci, and the presence or absence of surrounding changes was examined.


In all patients a cartilage lesion in at least one region of the knee could be detected. Retropatellar cartilage lesions have been found in 19 knees. Ten cartilage lesions grade I, and four lesions grade II have been described in the lateral compartment of the knee, whereas the medial compartment showed in eight cases a grade I, in 13 cases a grade II and in two cases a grade III cartilage lesion. Meniscal changes were assessed in most patients.


Morbidly obese children and adolescents show major abnormalities in the articular cartilage of the knee. Whether obesity alone is the causal factor for the development of the pattern of these changes, remains to be seen.

Key Points

Morbidly obese children and adolescents often suffer from knee pain

Prospective study showed cartilage and meniscal lesions in morbidly obese adolescents

MRI is an adequate tool for assessing cartilage lesions even in morbidly obese patients

It is unclear whether cartilage abnormalities are mainly due to mechanical overload


Magnetic resonance imaging Adolescents Obesity Knee pain Cartilage lesions