Comparison of cartilage and bone morphological models of the ankle joint derived from different medical imaging technologies

Gilda Durastanti, Alberto Leardini, Sorin Siegler, Stefano Durante, Alberto Bazzocchi, Claudio Belvedere


Background: Accurate geometrical models of bones and cartilage are necessary in biomechanical modelling of human joints, and in planning and designing of joint replacements. Image-based subject-specific model development requires image segmentation, spatial filtering and 3-dimensional rendering. This is usually based on computed tomography (CT) for bone models, on magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) for cartilage models. This process has been reported extensively in the past, but no studies have ever compared the accuracy and quality of these models when obtained also by merging different imaging modalities. The scope of the present work is to provide this comparative analysis in order to identify optimal imaging modality and registration techniques for producing 3-dimensional bone and cartilage models of the ankle joint.
Methods: One cadaveric leg was instrumented with multimodal markers and scanned using five different imaging modalities: a standard, a dual-energy and a cone-beam CT (CBCT) device, and a 1.5 and 3.0 Tesla MRI devices. Bone, cartilage, and combined bone and cartilage models were produced from each of these imaging modalities, and registered in space according to matching model surfaces or to corresponding marker centres. To assess the quality in overall model reconstruction, distance map analyses were performed and the difference between model surfaces obtained from the different imaging modalities and registration techniques was measured.
Results: The registration between models worked better with model surface matching than corresponding marker positions, particularly with MRI. The best bone models were obtained with the CBCT. Models with cartilage were defined better with the 3.0 Tesla than the 1.5 Tesla. For the combined bone and cartilage models, the colour maps and the numerical results from distance map analysis (DMA) showed that the smallest distances and the largest homogeneity were obtained from the CBCT and the 3.0 T MRI via model surface registration.
Conclusions: These observations are important in producing accurate bone and cartilage models from medical imaging and relevant for applications such as designing of custom-made ankle replacements or, more in general, of implants for total as well as focal joint replacements.