No loss of cartilage volume over three years in patients with knee osteoarthritis as assessed by magnetic resonance imaging

Osteoarthritis Cartilage. 2002 Dec;10(12):929-37. doi: 10.1053/joca.2002.0849.


Objective: Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) has the potential to provide accurate quantification of structural changes in joint disease, with sensitivity to change, as it can provide direct visualization of the cartilage and bone. In this study, we investigated whether knee cartilage volume, as assessed by MRI, is sensitive to change over time in patients with osteoarthritis (OA).

Design: Sixteen patient volunteers (10 male, six female) with established OA of the knee were entered into the study and demographic data recorded. At baseline, 12 months and 37+/-2 months, patients underwent simple measures of disease severity, as well as extended weight-bearing AP knee X-rays. In addition the patient's index knee was imaged using MR at 1.0 T using a 3-D spoiled gradient-echo sequence with fat-suppression, repetition time 50 ms, echo time 11 ms, flip-angle 40 degrees, sagittal slice thickness 1.56 mm and in-plane pixel resolution 0.55 mm. Manual image segmentation was performed on all knee cartilage compartments and the respective cartilage volumes determined.

Results: Eleven of the original patients recruited completed the 3-year study. Radiographic features indicated that the majority had a spectrum of well-established OA at entry. The average decrease in medial tibiofemoral joint space width was 0.21+/-0.37 mm (mean+/-S.D.). Comparison of MR images at baseline and 37+/-2 months indicated little evidence of cartilage lesion shape or size change in any of the compartments. There was no significant MRI volume change in any of the knee cartilage compartments over the course of 1 year. The change in total knee cartilage volume, as measured by MRI, was a loss of only 1.6%, or 0.36+/-1.3 ml (mean+/-S.D.), over the 3 years.

Conclusions: The failure to identify loss of cartilage volume over 3 years in this cohort of patients with established knee OA using MRI challenges the face validity of this endpoint to assess structural changes in OA.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Cartilage, Articular / diagnostic imaging
  • Cartilage, Articular / pathology*
  • Female
  • Femur / pathology
  • Humans
  • Knee Joint / diagnostic imaging
  • Knee Joint / pathology*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Osteoarthritis, Knee / diagnosis*
  • Osteoarthritis, Knee / diagnostic imaging
  • Patella / pathology
  • Radiography
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Tibia / pathology