Prediction of biomechanical properties of articular cartilage with quantitative magnetic resonance imaging

J Biomech. 2004 Mar;37(3):321-8. doi: 10.1016/s0021-9290(03)00291-4.


Quantitative magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is the most potential non-invasive means for revealing the structure, composition and pathology of articular cartilage. Here we hypothesize that cartilage mechanical properties as determined by the macromolecular framework and their interactions can be accessed by quantitative MRI. To test this, adjacent cartilage disk pairs (n=32) were prepared from bovine proximal humerus and patellofemoral surfaces. For one sample, the tissue Young's modulus, aggregate modulus, dynamic modulus and Poisson's ratio were determined in unconfined compression. The adjacent disk was studied at 9.4T to determine the tissue T(2) relaxation time, sensitive to the integrity of the collagen network, and T(1) relaxation time in the presence of Gd-DTPA, a technique developed for the estimation of cartilage proteoglycan (PG) content. Quantitative MRI parameters were able to explain up to 87% of the variations in certain biomechanical parameters. Correlations were further improved when data from the proximal humerus was assessed separately. MRI parameters revealed a topographical variation similar to that of mechanical parameters. Linear regression analysis revealed that Young's modulus of cartilage may be characterized more completely by combining both collagen- and PG-sensitive MRI parameters. The present results suggest that quantitative MRI can provide important information on the mechanical properties of articular cartilage. The results are encouraging with respect to functional imaging of cartilage, although in vivo applicability may be limited by the inferior resolution of clinical MRI instruments.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Evaluation Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Validation Study

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anisotropy
  • Biomechanical Phenomena / methods
  • Cartilage, Articular / physiology*
  • Cattle
  • Contrast Media
  • Elasticity
  • Femur / physiology
  • Gadolinium DTPA
  • Humerus / physiology
  • Image Interpretation, Computer-Assisted / methods*
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods*
  • Patella / physiology
  • Stress, Mechanical
  • Weight-Bearing / physiology*


  • Contrast Media
  • Gadolinium DTPA