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Osteoarthritis Cartilage. 2001 Aug;9(6):533-8.

Water distribution patterns inside bovine articular cartilage as visualized by 1H magnetic resonance imaging.

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  • 1Department of Chemistry, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19104, USA.



To develop a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technique to non-invasively map water volume fraction (WVF) in articular cartilage. Special emphasis was placed on spatial resolution and temporal considerations, aimed at creating a procedure feasible for eventual human studies.


Absolute proton density MR images of intact, ex vivo bovine patellae were calculated from fully T(1) relaxed, short echo time images. This was accomplished through compensation for T(2) decay with calculated T(2) maps. Calibration of the signal intensity in the image was accomplished with the use of H2O:D2O phantoms, where the WVF was varied from 0.95 to 0.75. Application of the calibration curve to the entire image yielded images that represent WVF on a pixel by pixel basis. Calculations of water content by weight were performed by considering the density of the solid content.


Using four echo time points, experiments comparing MR images from single-echo and multi-echo spin echo sequences yielded similar results. T(2) decreased with depth through the cartilage, with a maximum at the articular surface of approx 100 ms, and a approximately 50 ms minimum at the bone/cartilage interface. The WVF through the depth of the cartilage showed a similar trend, decreasing from 0.9 at the surface, to 0.7 at the bone/cartilage interface. Translation to a weight percent yielded approximately 86% weight at the surface, trending down to approximately 63% at the bone/cartilage interface, with an average of 74.5% for five patellae. These MRI derived values were compared to the measured weight of water in excised cartilage plugs from the same patellae and showed remarkably close agreement.


We have demonstrated that MRI can non-invasively map WVF in cartilage in a pixel by pixel manner. This was accomplished in a time span that was clinically feasible, allowing the routine use of this method in a clinical setting. Moreover, this procedure employed standard MRI equipment and pulse sequences, avoiding the need for hardware modifications and using simple post processing methods. However, baseline studies need to be performed prior to incorporation into a standard radiological evaluation. Implications in the diagnosis of osteoarthritis (OA) are discussed.

Copyright 2001 OsteoArthritis Research Society International.

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