Optimization and validation of a rapid high-resolution T1-w 3D FLASH water excitation MRI sequence for the quantitative assessment of articular cartilage volume and thickness

Magn Reson Imaging. 2001 Feb;19(2):177-85. doi: 10.1016/s0730-725x(01)00292-2.


In view of follow up, survey and development of therapeutic strategies for osteoarthritis where cartilage deterioration plays an important role, a non invasive, reliable and quantitative assessment of the articular cartilage is desirable. The currently available high resolution T(1)-weighted (T1-w) 3D FLASH pulse sequences with frequency selective fat suppression are very time consuming. We have 1) optimized a high resolution T1-w 3D FLASH water excitation (WE) sequence for short acquisition time and cartilage visualization, and 2) validated this sequence for cartilage volume and thickness quantification. The spectral fat presaturation was replaced by selective water excitation. The flip angle of the WE sequence was optimized for the contrast to noise (C/N(cart)) ratio of cartilage. Sagittal datasets (voxel size: 0.31 x 0.31 x 2 mm(3)) of the knees of nine healthy volunteers were acquired both, with the 3D FLASH WE (17.2/6.6/30 degrees ) sequence (WE) and a previously validated 3D FLASH fat saturated (42/11/30 degrees ) sequence (FS). For validation of the WE sequence, cartilage volume, mean and maximal cartilage thickness of the two sequences were compared. Reproducibility was assessed by calculating the coefficient of variation (COV %) of 4 consecutive WE data sets in the volunteers. The acquisition time was reduced from 16'30" (FS) down to 7'14" for the WE sequence. Image contrast and visualization of the cartilage was very similar, but delineation of the basal layer of the cartilage was slightly improved with the WE sequence. A flip angle of 30 degrees provided the best C/N(cart) ratios (WE). Reproducibility (COV) was between 1.9 and 5.9%. Cartilage volume and thickness agreed within 4% between FS and WE sequence. The WE sequence allows for rapid, valid and reproducible quantification of articular cartilage volume and thickness, prerequisites for follow-up examinations. The reduced acquisition time (50% of FS) enables routine clinical application and thus may contribute to a broader assessment of osteoarthritis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Cartilage, Articular / pathology*
  • Female
  • Fourier Analysis
  • Humans
  • Image Enhancement*
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted*
  • Imaging, Three-Dimensional*
  • Knee Joint / pathology
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Numerical Analysis, Computer-Assisted
  • Osteoarthritis, Knee / diagnosis
  • Osteoarthritis, Knee / pathology
  • Osteoarthritis, Knee / surgery
  • Reproducibility of Results