Duhaime's Law Dictionary

Osteoarthritis Definition:

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Related Terms: Rheumatoid Arthritis, Arthritis, Physiatrist

Osteoarthritis, also known as hypertrophic arthritis,1 is one of two main branches of arthritis, the other being rheumatoid arthritis.

The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons described osteoarthritis in 2012 as follows:

"Osteoarthritis ... is an age-related wear and tear type of arthritis. It usually occurs in people 50 years of age and older and often in individuals with a family history of arthritis. The cartilage cushioning the bones of the hip wears away. The bones then rub against each other, causing hip pain and stiffness. Osteoarthritis may also be caused or accelerated by subtle irregularities in how the hip developed in childhood."

Orthopedic surgeon Dr. William Gallivan made these remarks in 1953:

"You can classify arthritis best in two general groups: the atrophic and the hypertrophic or degenerative arthritis.

"The atrophic arthritis is the inflammatory type where the joints become markedly red, hot, swollen and painful. That is rheumatoid arthritis, and it is seldom brought into litigation suits.

"I believe that the primary type that is seen in litigation is the hypertrophic arthritis - the wear-and-tear or osteoarthritis or traumatic arthritis.

"The great problem is to differentiate osteoarthritis from traumatic arthritis. The mechanism differs but the end result or the pathology noted by the examining physician is similar. With osteoarthritis it is a necessity to have x-rays taken at the earliest practical moment, because changes in the joints associated with osteoarthritis or wear-and-tear do not occur overnight, and if we have an x-ray within the first one or two weeks of injury, we can definitely rule out that this pathology or abnormality is a result of trauma or so-called traumatic arthritis. With the degenerative changes of osteoarthritis there is a very slow rate of healing in strains and sprains. The joint is abnormal, the joint space is narrow and there is marginal lipping or spurring. The supporting structures are, therefore, under greater strain and with injury have a lesser tendency to heal, due to the preexisting added strain."


  • Gallivan, William, Importance of Pre-Existing Abnormalities of Bones and Congenital Defects, 23 Tenn. L. Rev. 696 (1953-1955)
  • Schmidt, J.E., Attorney's Dictionary of Medicine, Volume 1 (Newark, New Jersey: LexisNexis, 2009), page A-547 to A-548 - NOTE 1.

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