Objective: To develop an MR-based method for the in vivo evaluation of the structural composition of articular cartilage.
Design: Five sagittal magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) protocols were acquired throughout the knee joint of 15 healthy volunteers and the boundaries of the cartilage segmented from a previously validated sequence with high contrast between cartilage and surrounding tissue. The other sequences were matched to these data, using a 3D least-squares fit algorithm to exclude motion artefacts. In this way secondary images were computed that included information about the proton density (interstitial water content) and the magnetization transfer coefficient (macromolecules, collagen). The average signal intensities of the 3D cartilage plates were extracted from these data sets and related to a phantom.
Results: The signal intensity data showed a high interindividual variability for the proton density (patella 31%, lateral tibia 36%, medial tibia 29%); the patella displaying higher values than the tibia (P< 0.001). There were high correlations between the three plates. The magnetization transfer coefficient also showed high variability (patella 25%, lateral tibia 32%, medial tibia 30%) with the lowest values in the medial tibia (P< 0.01) and lower correlations between the plates. The slice-to-slice variation (medial to lateral) ranged from 9% to 24%.
Conclusion: An MR-based method has been developed for evaluating the proton density and magnetization transfer of articular cartilage in vivo and observing systematic differences between knee joint cartilage plates. The technique has the potential to supply information about the water content and collagen of articular cartilage, in particular at the early state of osteoarthritic degeneration.
Copyright 2000 OsteoArthritis Research Society International.