Last revised by Dr Henry Knipe on 15 Sep 2021

Osteophytes are cartilage-capped bony proliferations (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 and can be confused with syndesmophytes and enthesophytes.

Small osteophytes are sometimes referred to as osteophytic lipping.

Aside from the manifestations of osteoarthritis, osteophytes can:

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

Hooked osteophytes can be seen in CPPD and hemochromatosis-associated arthropathy

  • 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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