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:
- fracture causing pain
- impinge neuromuscular structures
- present as Heberden nodes and Bouchard nodules in osteoarthritis of the hand
Currently, it is unknown if osteophytes are a functional adaptation to joint disease or a pathological phenomenon in their own right .
- 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