We assessed the relationship between cartilage MR relaxation times and biomechanical response of tibiofemoral articular cartilage to physiological loading in healthy subjects and patients with osteoarthritis (OA). Female subjects above 40 years of age with (N(1) = 20) and without (N(2) = 10) OA were imaged on a 3T MR scanner using a custom made loading device. MR images were acquired with the knee flexed at 20° with and without a compressive load of 50% of the subject's bodyweight. The subjects were categorized based on the clinical MRI scoring of medial and lateral cartilage surfaces. Data were stratified twice into two equal groups (low and high) at the median value of T(1ρ) and T(2) relaxation time. The change in contact area and cartilage deformation was measured within these groups. Paired Student's t-test (α = 0.05) was used to analyze the effect of loading on contact area and deformation. The average area of the contact region in the medial compartment was significantly higher in OA subjects compared with normal subjects in both unloaded (314 ± 112 mm(2) vs. 227 ± 106 mm(2), p = 0.023) and loaded (425 ± 128 mm(2) vs. 316 ± 107 mm(2), p = 0.01) conditions. The overall relative change of cartilage thickness in the medial compartment was significantly higher than the lateral compartment (-5.3 ± 9.9% vs. -1.9 ± 9.2%, p = 0.042). When cartilage was divided into deep and superficial layers, superficial layers showed higher changes in relaxation time (T(1ρ) and T(2)) than the changes in relaxation time of whole cartilage (Normal: 12.5% vs. 6.9%; OA: 10.9% vs. 4.6%). The average T(1ρ) and T(2) times, change in area of contact region, and change in cartilage thickness in subjects with OA were higher when compared to normal subjects. This study provides support for a relationship between the mechanical response of cartilage to physiological loading (cartilage-on-cartilage contact area and cartilage deformation) and MR relaxation times (T(1ρ) and T(2)) in both OA patients and normal subjects.
Copyright © 2011 Orthopaedic Research Society.