Cartilage quantification using contrast-enhanced MRI in the wrist of rheumatoid arthritis: cartilage loss is associated with bone marrow edema

Br J Radiol. 2017 Aug;90(1077):20170167. doi: 10.1259/bjr.20170167. Epub 2017 Jul 14.


Objective: To quantify wrist cartilage using contrast MRI and compare with the extent of adjacent synovitis and bone marrow edema (BME) in patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA).

Methods: 18 patients with RA underwent post-contrast fat-suppressed T1weighted coronal imaging. Cartilage area at the centre of the scaphoid-capitate and radius-scaphoid joints was measured by in-house developed software. We defined cartilage as the pixels with signal intensity between two thresholds (lower: 0.4, 0.5 and 0.6 times the muscle signal, upper: 0.9, 1.0, 1.1, 1.2 and 1.3 times the muscle signal). We investigated the association of cartilage loss with synovitis and BME score derived from RA MRI scoring system.

Results: Cartilage area was correlated with BME score when thresholds were adequately set with lower threshold at 0.6 times the muscle signal and upper threshold at 1.2 times the muscle signal for both SC (rs=-0.469, p < 0.05) and RS (rs=-0.486, p < 0.05) joints, while it showed no significant correlation with synovitis score at any thresholds.

Conclusion: Our software can accurately quantify cartilage in the wrist and BME associated with cartilage loss in patients with RA. Advances in knowledge: Our software can quantify cartilage using conventional MR images of the wrist. BME is associated with cartilage loss in RA patients.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / complications
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / diagnostic imaging*
  • Bone Marrow / diagnostic imaging
  • Cartilage / diagnostic imaging*
  • Contrast Media*
  • Edema / complications
  • Edema / diagnostic imaging*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Image Enhancement / methods*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Wrist Joint / diagnostic imaging*


  • Contrast Media