The purpose of this study was (1) to evaluate the sensitivity, specificity and accuracy of sagittal in vivo 3-T intermediate-weighted fast spin-echo (iwFSE) sequences in the assessment of knee cartilage pathologies using histology as the reference standard in patients undergoing total knee replacement, and (2) to correlate MR imaging findings typically associated with osteoarthritis such as bone marrow edema pattern (BMEP) and cartilage swelling with histological findings. Tibial plateaus and femoral condyles of eight knees of seven patients were resected during surgery, and sagittal histological sections were prepared for histology. Preoperative MRI findings were compared to the corresponding region in histological sections for thickness, surface integrity and signal pattern of cartilage, and histological findings in areas of BMEP and swelling were documented. The overall sensitivity, specificity and accuracy were 72%, 69% and 70% for thickness, 69%, 74% and 73% for surface and 36%, 62% and 45% for intracartilaginous signal pattern. For all cases of BMEP on MRI subchondral ingrowth of fibrovascular tissue and increased bone remodeling were observed. MRI using fat-saturated iwFSE sequences showed good performance in assessing cartilage thickness and surface lesions, while signal changes of cartilage were not suited to characterize the severity of cartilage degeneration as validated by histology.