Fat-suppressed three-dimensional spoiled gradient-echo MR imaging of hyaline cartilage defects in the knee: comparison with standard MR imaging and arthroscopy

AJR Am J Roentgenol. 1996 Jul;167(1):127-32. doi: 10.2214/ajr.167.1.8659356.


Objective: The sensitivity of fat-suppressed three-dimensional spoiled gradient-echo (SPGR) images was compared with that of standard MR images for detecting hyaline cartilage defects of the knee, using arthroscopy as the standard of reference.

Subjects and methods: We assessed 114 consecutive patients for hyaline cartilage defects of the knee with both standard MR imaging sequences and a sagittal fat-suppressed three-dimensional SPGR sequence. Of these patients, 48 with meniscal or ligament injury, or persistent symptoms, underwent subsequent arthroscopy. The standard MR images and SPGR images of these 48 patients were then retrospectively analyzed for articular defects in a blinded fashion by two independent observers. Sensitivity, specificity, and intraobserver and interobserver agreement were determined for the different imaging techniques.

Results: One fourth of the patients who went on to arthroscopy were shown to have isolated hyaline cartilage lesions that were clinically confused with meniscal tears and that were missed on the standard MR images. When looking at all surfaces combined for each reader, the SPGR imaging sequence had a significantly higher sensitivity than the standard MR imaging sequences for detecting hyaline cartilage defects (75-85% versus 29-38%, p < .001 for each comparison). When looking at individual surfaces for each reader, significant differences in sensitivity were shown for each surface except the trochlear and lateral tibial surfaces. We found no difference in specificity (97% versus 97%, p > .99). We also found that combined evaluation of standard MR and SPGR images gave no added diagnostic advantage (sensitivity, 86%; specificity, 97%; p > .42). Except for the lateral tibial surface, the study achieved excellent reproducibility among readings and between readers.

Conclusion: Fat-suppressed three-dimensional SPGR imaging is more sensitive than standard MR imaging for the detection of hyaline cartilage defects of the knee.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Arthroscopy*
  • Cartilage, Articular / injuries
  • Cartilage, Articular / pathology*
  • Child
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted*
  • Knee Injuries / diagnosis*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Observer Variation
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Sensitivity and Specificity