MRI-based measures of cartilage morphology are being increasingly used as surrogate markers in osteoarthritis. In contrast to other knee joint surfaces, quantitative analysis of the femoral condyles from sagittal MRI suffers from limited precision. The objective, therefore, was to develop a technique for reproducible assessment of femoral cartilage morphology from coronal image data. Coronal MR images (3D T(1)-w FLASHwe) of the knee were obtained in 16 healthy volunteers and in 7 patients with severe osteoarthritis (OA, prior to knee arthroplasty), with repositioning between repeated scans. After segmentation the cartilage volume, thickness, and joint surface areas were quantified in the tibia and in an anatomically defined region of the femoral condyle. Immediate test-retest interscan precision errors (CV%) for femoral cartilage volume were 3.0% (SD = 26 microl) and 3.2% (29 microl) medially and laterally in volunteers, and 3.0% (34 microl) and 7.0% (37 microl) in OA patients. The estimated loss, from cross sectional data, in the patients in the medial femoral condyle (-61%/-4.4 SD) was higher than that in the medial tibia (-45%/-3.1 SD) and compared favorably with precision errors (ratio > 16:1). The technique proposed overcomes some of the problems associated with sagittal scans and thus shows high promise for reliable assessment of femoro-tibial cartilage loss in OA.
Copyright 2003 Wiley-Liss, Inc.