Responsiveness and reliability of MRI in knee osteoarthritis: a meta-analysis of published evidence

Osteoarthritis Cartilage. 2011 May;19(5):589-605. doi: 10.1016/j.joca.2010.10.030. Epub 2011 Mar 23.


Objective: To summarize literature on the responsiveness and reliability of MRI-based measures of knee osteoarthritis (OA) structural change.

Methods: A literature search was conducted using articles published up to the time of the search, April 2009. 1338 abstracts obtained with this search were preliminarily screened for relevance and of these, 243 were selected for data extraction. For this analysis we extracted data on reliability and responsiveness for every reported synovial joint tissue as it relates to MRI measurement in knee OA. Reliability was defined by inter- and intra-reader intra-class correlation (ICC), or coefficient of variation, or kappa statistics. Responsiveness was defined as standardized response mean (SRM) - ratio of mean of change over time divided by standard deviation of change. Random-effects models were used to pool data from multiple studies.

Results: The reliability analysis included data from 84 manuscripts. The inter-reader and intra-reader ICC were excellent (range 0.8-0.94) and the inter-reader and intra-reader kappa values for quantitative and semi-quantitative measures were all moderate to excellent (range 0.52-0.88). The lowest value (kappa=0.52) corresponded to semi-quantitative synovial scoring intra-reader reliability and the highest value (ICC=0.94) for semi-quantitative cartilage morphology. The responsiveness analysis included data from 42 manuscripts. The pooled SRM for quantitative measures of cartilage morphometry for the medial tibiofemoral joint was -0.86 (95% confidence intervals (CI) -1.26 to -0.46). The pooled SRM for the semi-quantitative measurement of cartilage morphology for the medial tibiofemoral joint was 0.55 (95% CI 0.47-0.64). For the quantitative analysis, SRMs are negative because the quantitative value, indicating a loss of cartilage, goes down. For the semi-quantitative analysis, SRMs indicating a loss in cartilage are positive (increase in score).

Conclusion: MRI has evolved substantially over the last decade and its strengths include the ability to visualize individual tissue pathologies, which can be measured reliably and with good responsiveness using both quantitative and semi-quantitative techniques.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Cartilage, Articular / pathology
  • Evidence-Based Medicine / methods
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Knee Joint / pathology*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods
  • Male
  • Menisci, Tibial / pathology
  • Middle Aged
  • Osteoarthritis, Knee / diagnosis*
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Synovial Membrane / pathology