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Osteoarthritis Cartilage. 2007 Jul;15(7):789-97. Epub 2007 Feb 16.

In vivo T(1rho) and T(2) mapping of articular cartilage in osteoarthritis of the knee using 3 T MRI.

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  • 1Musculo-skeletal Quantitative Imaging Research, Department of Radiology, University of California at San Francisco, San Francisco, CA 94107, USA. xiaojuan.li@radiology.ucsf.edu



Evaluation and treatment of patients with early stages of osteoarthritis (OA) is dependent upon an accurate assessment of the cartilage lesions. However, standard cartilage dedicated magnetic resonance (MR) techniques are inconclusive in quantifying early degenerative changes. The objective of this study was to determine the ability of MR T1rho (T(1rho)) and T(2) mapping to detect cartilage matrix degeneration between normal and early OA patients.


Sixteen healthy volunteers (mean age 41.3) without clinical or radiological evidence of OA and 10 patients (mean age 55.9) with OA were scanned using a 3Tesla (3T) MR scanner. Cartilage volume and thickness, and T(1rho) and T(2) values were compared between normal and OA patients. The relationship between T(1rho) and T(2) values, and Kellgren-Lawrence scores based on plain radiographs and the cartilage lesion grading based on MR images were studied.


The average T(1rho) and T(2) values were significantly increased in OA patients compared with controls (52.04+/-2.97ms vs 45.53+/-3.28ms with P=0.0002 for T(1rho), and 39.63+/-2.69ms vs 34.74+/-2.48ms with P=0.001 for T(2)). Increased T(1rho) and T(2) values were correlated with increased severity in radiographic and MR grading of OA. T(1rho) has a larger range and higher effect size than T(2), 3.7 vs 3.0.


Our results suggest that both in vivo T(1rho) and T(2) relaxation times increase with the degree of cartilage degeneration. T(1rho) relaxation time may be a more sensitive indicator for early cartilage degeneration than T(2). The ability to detect early cartilage degeneration prior to morphologic changes may allow us to critically monitor the course of OA and injury progression, and to evaluate the success of treatment to patients with early stages of OA.

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