Background: Cam deformities cause femoroacetabular impingement and damage the acetabular labral-chondral complex. The aims of this study were to investigate the potential of delayed gadolinium-enhanced magnetic resonance imaging of cartilage (dGEMRIC) to detect cartilage disease in asymptomatic hips with cam deformities compared with morphologically normal hips, establish whether dGEMRIC could identify advanced disease in hips with positive clinical findings, and establish whether cartilage damage correlated with the severity of the cam deformity.
Methods: Subjects were recruited from a prospective study of individuals with a family history of osteoarthritis and their spouses who served as control subjects. Their symptoms and impingement test results were recorded. Asymptomatic hips with normal radiographic joint-space width were placed in a subgroup according to the presence of a cam deformity and the impingement test result. dGEMRIC was performed on a 3-T system, studying two regions of interest: the anterosuperior aspect of the acetabular cartilage (T1(acet)) and the total femoral and acetabular cartilage (T1(total)). The ratio T1(acet)/T1(total) gave the relative glycosaminoglycan content in the anterosuperior aspect of the acetabular cartilage. The cohort was placed in subgroups by joint morphology, impingement test status, and genetic predisposition; the mean T1 scores were compared, and the alpha angle and T1 were correlated.
Results: Of thirty-two subjects (mean age, fifty-two years), nineteen had cam deformities. Hips with a cam deformity had reduced acetabular glycosaminoglycan content compared with normal hips (mean T1(acet)/T1(total), 0.949 and 1.093, respectively; p = 0.0008). Hips with a positive impingement test result had global depletion of glycosaminoglycan compared with hips with a negative result (mean T1(total), 625 ms versus 710 ms; p = 0.0152). T1(acet) inversely correlated with the magnitude of the alpha angle (r = -0.483, p = 0.0038), suggesting that the severity of cartilage damage correlates with the magnitude of the cam deformity. All of these differences occurred irrespective of genetic predisposition.
Conclusions: The dGEMRIC technique can detect cartilage damage in asymptomatic hips with cam deformities and no radiographic evidence of joint space narrowing. This damage correlates with cam deformity severity. Further study of the application of dGEMRIC as an imaging biomarker of early osteoarthritis is justified to validate its prognostic accuracy, identify subjects for clinical trials, and evaluate the effectiveness of surgical procedures.