Article Abstract

Quantitative MRI techniques of cartilage composition

Authors: Stephen J. Matzat, Jasper van Tiel, Garry E. Gold, Edwin H. G. Oei


Due to aging populations and increasing rates of obesity in the developed world, the prevalence of osteoarthritis (OA) is continually increasing. Decreasing the societal and patient burden of this disease motivates research in prevention, early detection of OA, and novel treatment strategies against OA. One key facet of this effort is the need to track the degradation of tissues within joints, especially cartilage. Currently, conventional imaging techniques provide accurate means to detect morphological deterioration of cartilage in the later stages of OA, but these methods are not sensitive to the subtle biochemical changes during early disease stages. Novel quantitative techniques with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) provide direct and indirect assessments of cartilage composition, and thus allow for earlier detection and tracking of OA.

This review describes the most prominent quantitative MRI techniques to date—dGEMRIC, T2 mapping, T1rho mapping, and sodium imaging. Other, less-validated methods for quantifying cartilage composition are also described—Ultrashort echo time (UTE), gagCEST, and diffusion-weighted imaging (DWI). For each technique, this article discusses the proposed biochemical correlates, as well its advantages and limitations for clinical and research use. The article concludes with a detailed discussion of how the field of quantitative MRI has progressed to provide information regarding two specific patient populations through clinical research—patients with anterior cruciate ligament rupture and patients with impingement in the hip. While quantitative imaging techniques continue to rapidly evolve, specific challenges for each technique as well as challenges to clinical applications remain.