Reliability of a quantification imaging system using magnetic resonance images to measure cartilage thickness and volume in human normal and osteoarthritic knees

Osteoarthritis Cartilage. 2003 May;11(5):351-60. doi: 10.1016/s1063-4584(03)00029-3.


Objective: The aim of this study was to evaluate the reliability of a software tool that assesses knee cartilage volumes using magnetic resonance (MR) images. The objectives were to assess measurement reliability by: (1) determining the differences between readings of the same image made by the same reader 2 weeks apart (test-retest reliability), (2) determining the differences between the readings of the same image made by different readers (between-reader agreement), and (3) determining the differences between the cartilage volume readings obtained from two MR images of the same knee image acquired a few hours apart (patient positioning reliability).

Methods: Forty-eight MR examinations of the knee from normal subjects, patients with different stages of symptomatic knee osteoarthritis (OA), and a subset of duplicate images were independently and blindly quantified by three readers using the imaging system. The following cartilage areas were analyzed to compute volumes: global cartilage, medial and lateral compartments, and medial and lateral femoral condyles.

Results: Between-reader agreement of measurements was excellent, as shown by intra-class correlation (ICC) coefficients ranging from 0.958 to 0.997 for global cartilage (P<0.0001), 0.974 to 0.998 for the compartments (P<0.0001), and 0.943 to 0.999 for the condyles(P<0.0001). Test-retest reliability of within-reader data was also excellent, with Pearson correlation coefficients ranging from 0.978 to 0.999 (P<0.0001). Patient positioning reliability was also excellent, with Pearson correlation coefficients ranging from 0.978 to 0.999 (P<0.0001).

Conclusions: The results of this study establish the reliability of this MR imaging system. Test-retest reliability, between-reader agreement, and patient positioning reliability were all extremely high. This study represents a first step in the overall validation of an imaging system designed to follow progression of human knee OA.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Cartilage, Articular / pathology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Knee Joint / pathology*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Models, Biological
  • Osteoarthritis, Knee / pathology*
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Software