Feasibility of T and Z scores from magnetic resonance imaging data for quantification of cartilage loss in osteoarthritis

Arthritis Rheum. 2003 Oct;48(10):2829-35. doi: 10.1002/art.11259.


Objective: T scores (an indicator of the difference between patients and young healthy subjects) and Z scores (an indicator of the difference between patients and age-matched healthy subjects) are used in the diagnosis of osteoporosis and form the current basis for the definition of osteoporosis by the World Health Organization. We tested the feasibility of using T and Z scores derived from quantitative cartilage imaging with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) for the diagnosis of osteoarthritis (OA).

Methods: High-resolution MR images of tibial cartilage were acquired from 126 young healthy adults (ages 20-35 years), 24 age-matched elderly healthy adults (ages 50-75 years), 7 OA patients prior to tibial osteotomy, and 7 OA patients prior to knee arthroplasty. Cartilage volume, thickness, surface area, and original joint surface area (before onset of disease) were determined in the medial and lateral tibia.

Results: The cartilage volume of the medial tibia of osteotomy patients with varus malalignment displayed moderate T scores (-1.0), and more negative T scores (-3.8) were observed in knee arthroplasty patients with varus malalignment. Normalization of the cartilage volume to the original joint surface area substantially enhanced the scores in patients undergoing osteotomy (-2.3) and in patients undergoing knee arthroplasty (-5.5), and this was superior to the normalization ratios of cartilage volume to body height and cartilage volume to body weight, in terms of distinguishing the loss of articular cartilage.

Conclusion: Quantitative analysis of OA by MRI is feasible using T and Z scores. However, cartilage volume should be normalized to the individual joint surface area in order to maximize the discriminatory power of this technique for the diagnosis of OA.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Body Height
  • Body Weight
  • Cartilage / anatomy & histology
  • Cartilage / pathology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Knee Joint / anatomy & histology
  • Knee Joint / pathology
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / standards
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Osteoarthritis, Knee / pathology*
  • Reference Values
  • Severity of Illness Index*