Purpose: To determine if age and early symptomatic degeneration alter the spatial dependency of cartilage T2.
Materials and methods: In 25 asymptomatic volunteers and six volunteers with symptoms of patellar chondromalacia, quantitative T2 maps of patellar cartilage were obtained with a multiecho, spin-echo magnetic resonance imaging sequence at 3.0 T. Spatial variation in T2 was evaluated as a function of participant age and symptoms.
Results: All asymptomatic volunteers demonstrated a continuous increase in T2 from the radial zone to the articular surface. In the population aged 46-60 years compared with younger volunteers, there was a statistically significant (P < .05) increase in T2 of the transitional zone. In symptomatic volunteers, the increase in T2 was larger in magnitude and focal in distribution. In five of the six symptomatic volunteers, the increase in T2 was greater than the 95% prediction interval determined from data in the corresponding age-matched asymptomatic population.
Conclusion: Aging is associated with an asymptomatic increase in T2 of the transitional zone of articular cartilage. Preliminary results indicate this diffuse increase in T2 in senescent cartilage is different in appearance than the focally increased T2 observed in damaged articular cartilage.