The objective of this article was to analyze the accuracy and precision with which the quantitative distribution of articular cartilage can be determined in the knee joint using MRI. A three-dimensional (3D) technique that accounts for the out-of-plane deviation of the interface normal in strongly curved joint surfaces (3D MR-CCM) has been developed for cartilage thickness measurements. Eight cadaveric knee-joint specimens and six volunteers were imaged using a fat-suppressed gradient-echo sequence at a resolution of 2 x 0.31 x 0.31 mm3. Cartilage volumes and topographical thickness maps were obtained and compared with those derived from anatomical sections by image analysis. The deviation of the MR volumes from those of the sections was 1-12%, the coefficient of variation after repositioning ranged from 2.9% (patella) to 8.2% (lateral tibial plateau). Between 60% and 80% of all image points could be attributed to identical thickness intervals, less than 20% deviating by more than 0.5 mm. The intraobserver and interobserver reproducibilities were very high in both the specimens and the volunteers. In the knee joint, 3D reconstructions of the cartilages, and measurements that take into account the out-of-plane deviation of the interface normals (3D MR-CCM), are required.