Quantitative T2 MRI Mapping and 12-Month Follow-up in a Randomized, Blinded, Placebo Controlled Trial of Bone Marrow Aspiration and Concentration for Osteoarthritis of the Knees

Cartilage. 2019 Oct;10(4):432-443. doi: 10.1177/1947603518796142. Epub 2018 Aug 30.


Objective: Bone marrow aspiration and concentration (BMAC) is becoming a more common regenerative therapy for musculoskeletal pathology. In our current pilot study, we studied patients with mild-to-moderate bilateral knee osteoarthritis, compared pain at 12-month follow-up between BMAC-injected and saline-injected knees, and examined cartilage appearance measured by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) T2 quantitative mapping.

Design: Twenty-five patients with mild-to-moderate bilateral osteoarthritic knee pain were randomized to receive BMAC into one knee and saline placebo into the other. Bone marrow was aspirated from the iliac crests, concentrated in an automated centrifuge, combined with platelet-poor plasma for knee injection, and compared with saline injection into the contralateral knee. Primary outcome measures were T2 MRI cartilage mapping at 6-month and Visual Analog Scale and Osteoarthritis Research Society International Intermittent and Constant Osteoarthritis Pain scores and radiographs at 12-month follow-up.

Results: Constant, intermittent, and overall knee pain remained significantly decreased from baseline at 12-month follow-up (all P ⩽ 0.01), with no apparent difference between BMAC- and saline-treated knees (all P ⩾ 0.54). A similar significant increase from baseline to 12-month follow-up regarding quality of life was observed for both BMAC- and saline-treated knees (all P ⩽ 0.04). T2 quantitative MRI mapping showed no significant changes as a result of treatment.

Conclusions: BMAC is safe to perform and relieves pain from knee arthritis but showed no superiority to saline injection at 12-month follow-up. MRI cartilage sequences failed to show regenerative benefit with single BMAC injection. The mechanisms of action that led to pain relief remain unclear and warrant further studies.

Keywords: BMAC; MRI; MSC; T2 mapping; bone marrow; degenerative joint disease; knee osteoarthritis; stem cells.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Bone Marrow Transplantation / methods*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Injections, Intra-Articular
  • Knee Joint / diagnostic imaging
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Osteoarthritis, Knee / complications
  • Osteoarthritis, Knee / diagnostic imaging
  • Osteoarthritis, Knee / therapy*
  • Pain / etiology
  • Pain Management / methods
  • Pain Measurement / methods
  • Pilot Projects
  • Radiography
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Tissue and Organ Harvesting / methods*