To characterise osteoarthritis (OA) in the temporomandibular joints (TMJs) by means of cone beam CT in a hand OA population, and identify interpretation challenges.
The TMJs of 54 individuals (mean age 71.3) recruited from the “The Oslo hand OA cohort”, independently of TMJ-related symptoms, were examined with cone beam CT (ProMax MidCBCT). Images were analysed for bone change characteristics and each joint was diagnosed with either OA, no OA or as indeterminate for OA. The image analysis criteria developed for the Research Diagnostic Criteria for Temporomandibular Disorders were used. Frequencies of bone changes, joint diagnoses and severity grades (1–2) were calculated, as well as κ values for observer agreement.
In the OA joints, the most frequent bone changes occurred in the condyle: flattening (79%), osteophyte (72%) and subcortical sclerosis (70%). The most frequent changes in the fossa/eminence were flattening (57%), erosion (49%) and subcortical sclerosis (47%). 53 (49%) of the 108 joints were diagnosed with TMJ OA (68 % Grade 2), 29 joints (27%) with no OA, and 26 joints (24%) were indeterminate for OA. Inter- and intraobserver agreement showed mean κ values of 0.67 and 0.62, respectively.
TMJ changes were common in elderly with hand OA and characterised by bone productive changes. The radiologic features indicated a late stage TMJ OA. Interpretation challenges related to subtle changes were identified and are reflected by the rather low observer agreement. The diagnosis of TMJ OA should be based on evident and clear abnormalities only.