Background: There is emerging evidence that the development and progression of osteoarthritis (OA) is associated with inflammation. C reactive protein (CRP), a systemic marker for inflammation, may be elevated in OA patients but the evidence is conflicting. Objective: To systematically review the literature for the relationship between serum CRP levels measured by a high sensitivity method (high sensitive CRP (hs-CRP)) and OA, as well as the correlation between circulating CRP levels and OA phenotypes. Methods: MEDLINE, EMBASE and CINAHL databases were systematically searched from January 1992 to December 2012. Studies were included when they met the inclusion criteria and data from studies were extracted. Two independent reviewers assessed study quality using a modified Newcastle-Ottawa Quality Assessment Scale. Meta-analyses were performed to pool available data from included studies. Results: 32 studies met the inclusion criteria. Serum hs-CRP levels in OA were modestly but statistically significantly higher than controls (mean difference=1.19 mg/L, 95% CI 0.64 to 1.73, p<0.001) with significant heterogeneity between studies. Levels were significantly associated with pain (r=0.14, 95% CI 0.09 to 0.20, p<0.001) and decreased physical function (r=0.25, 95% CI 0.13 to 0.39, p<0.001). No significant associations were found between hs-CRP levels and radiographic OA. Conclusions: Low-grade systemic inflammation may play a greater role in symptoms rather than radiographic changes in OA.