Knee cartilage topography, thickness, and contact areas from MRI: in-vitro calibration and in-vivo measurements

Osteoarthritis Cartilage. 1999 Jan;7(1):95-109. doi: 10.1053/joca.1998.0165.


Objective: This study assessed the three-dimensional accuracy of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) for measuring articular surface topographies and cartilage thicknesses of human cadaveric knee joints, by comparison with the calibrated stereophotogrammetric (SPG) method.

Methods: Six fresh frozen cadaveric knees and the knees of four volunteers were imaged with a three-dimensional spoiled gradient-recalled acquisition with fat suppression using a linear extremity coil in a 1.5 T superconducting magnet. The imaging voxel size was 0.47 x 0.47 x 1.0 mm. Both a manual and a semi-automated segmentation method were employed to extract topographic measurements from MRI. Following MRI, each of the six cadaveric knees was dissected and its articular surfaces quantified using stereophotogrammetry. The MRI surface measurements were compared numerically with the SPG measurements.

Results: For six cadaveric knees, the average accuracies of cartilage and subchondral bone surface measurements were found to be 0.22 mm and 0.14 mm respectively and the thickness measurements demonstrated an average accuracy of 0.31 mm. It was found that while most of the error may be attributed to random measurement error, the accuracy was somewhat affected by systematic errors. For each bone of the knee, accuracies were most favorable in the patella, followed by the femur and then the tibia. The more efficient semi-automated method provided equally good and sometimes better accuracies than manual segmentation.

Conclusions: This study demonstrates that clinical MRI can provide accurate measurements of cartilage topography, thickness, contact areas and surface curvatures of the knee.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cartilage, Articular / anatomy & histology*
  • Femur / anatomy & histology
  • Humans
  • Knee Joint / anatomy & histology*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods*
  • Middle Aged
  • Patella / anatomy & histology
  • Photogrammetry
  • Tibia / anatomy & histology