Objective: Bone marrow derived cell transplantation (BMDCT) has been recently suggested as a possible surgical technique to repair osteochondral lesions. To date, no qualitative MRI studies have evaluated its efficacy. The aim of our study is to investigate the validity of MRI T2-mapping sequence in characterizing the reparative tissue obtained and its ability to correlate with clinical results.
Methods and materials: 20 patients with an osteochondral lesion of the talus underwent BMDCT and were evaluated at 2 years follow up using MRI T2-mapping sequence. 20 healthy volunteers were recruited as controls. MRI images were acquired using a protocol suggested by the International Cartilage Repair Society, MOCART scoring system and T2 mapping. Results were then correlated with AOFAS clinical score.
Results: AOFAS score increased from 66.8±14.5 pre-operatively to 91.2±8.3 (p<0.0005) at 2 years follow-up. T2-relaxation time value of 35-45 ms was derived from healthy ankles evaluation and assumed as normal hyaline cartilage value and used as a control. Regenerated tissue with a T2-relaxation time value comparable to hyaline cartilage was found in all the cases treated, covering a mean of 78% of the repaired lesion area. A high clinical score was related directly to isointense signal in DPFSE fat sat (p=0.05), and percentage of regenerated hyaline cartilage (p=0.05), inversely to the percentage of regenerated fibrocartilage. Lesion's depth negatively related to the integrity of the repaired tissue's surface (tau=-0.523, p=0.007), and to the percentage of regenerated hyaline cartilage (rho=-0.546, p=0.013).
Conclusions: Because of its ability to detect cartilage's quality and to correlate to the clinical score, MRI T2-mapping sequence integrated with Mocart score represent a valid, non-invasive technique for qualitative cartilage assessment after regenerative surgical procedures.
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