Osteophyte

Last revised by Dr Daniel J Bell on 05 Jun 2022

Osteophytes are cartilage-capped bony proliferations (bony spurs) that most commonly develop at the margins of a synovial joint as a response to articular cartilage damage, as seen very commonly in degenerative joint disease. Central osteophytes can develop from cartilage lesions within a joint. They are considered a hallmark of osteoarthritis. Osteophytes may be confused with syndesmophytes and enthesophytes.

Small osteophytes are sometimes referred to as osteophytic lipping.

Aside from the manifestations of osteoarthritis, osteophytes can also:

Currently, it is unknown if osteophytes are a functional adaptation to joint disease or a pathological phenomenon in their own right 1

A subtype, known as hooked osteophytes may be seen in hemochromatosis-associated arthropathy and, less commonly CPPD

  • syndesmophyte: paravertebral ossifications that run parallel with the spine cf. osteophytes which typically protrude perpendicular to the spine
  • enthesophyte: located at an attachment of a ligament or tendon, not associated with a joint

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Cases and figures

  • Figure 1: syndesmophyte v osteophyte
    Drag here to reorder.
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