Osteoarthritis is the most common condition to affect the joints of man as well as a frequent cause of locomotor pain and disability. According to the Center for Disease Control, 40 million patients were suffering from arthritis in the United States in 1995 2. The CDC estimates that 59.4 million Americans will be affected with arthritis by 2020. Arthritis resulted in 39 million physician visits annually with estimated healthcare costs amounting to more than $60 billion dollars in 1995; this number is likely to increase two - to three fold during the next decade.
In spite of its societal impact and prevalence there is a paucity of information on the factors that cause osteoarthritis to progress. Previously considered a "wear and tear" degenerative disease with little opportunity for therapeutic intervention, osteoarthritis is now increasingly viewed as a dynamic process with exciting potential for new pharmacologic and surgical treatment modalities such as cartilage transplantation, osteochondral allo or autografting, osteotomies and tibial corticotomies with angular distraction. New drugs such as metalloproteinase inhibitors and chondro-regenerative proteins have the potential to revolutionize the treatment of cartilage loss and arthritis in the near future. The appropriate deployment and selection of newer treatment interventions for OA is dependent on the development of better methods for the assessment of the disease process such as those being developed by ImaTx.