Objective: Intra-articular corticosteroid injections (IACIs) are frequently used to suppress local inflammation, that is, in children with juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA). While systemic high-dosage corticosteroids are known to trigger osteonecrosis and result in osteochondral (OC) lesions, the effect of IACIs on joint cartilage and subchondral bone remains unclear. This study was conceived to analyze the coincidence of IACI and the subsequent manifestation of osteochondral lesions in a large cohort of pediatric JIA patients.
Design: Retrospective data assessment and comparative analysis of skeletally immature JIA patients treated with IACIs between 1993 and 2017.
Results: A total of 280 JIA patients were included in the analysis, the majority were girls (64%). Osteochondral lesions were present in 16 patients (5.7%) at a mean age of 10.7 years (range 4-14 years) and appeared on average after 63-month duration of disease. The majority was present at atypical locations such as the lateral femoral condyle. Multivariable analysis using cox regression showed that steroid injections were a risk factor to develop an OC lesion (hazard ratio [95%CI] for number of steroid injections per year, 8.20 [3.18, 21.16]).
Conclusions: Pediatric patients with JIA show a relatively high incidence of osteochondritic lesions, which present at an early age and in rather atypical locations and repetitive steroid injection need to be considered an associated risk factor.