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Bone Joint Res. 2013 Jan 1;2(1):9-17. doi: 10.1302/2046-3758.21.2000135. Print 2013 Jan.

MRI of articular cartilage at microscopic resolution.

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Oakland University, 276 Hannah Hall, Department of Physics, Rochester, Michigan 48309, USA.


This review briefly summarises some of the definitive studies of articular cartilage by microscopic MRI (µMRI) that were conducted with the highest spatial resolutions. The article has four major sections. The first section introduces the cartilage tissue, MRI and µMRI, and the concept of image contrast in MRI. The second section describes the characteristic profiles of three relaxation times (T1, T2 and T1ρ) and self-diffusion in healthy articular cartilage. The third section discusses several factors that can influence the visualisation of articular cartilage and the detection of cartilage lesion by MRI and µMRI. These factors include image resolution, image analysis strategies, visualisation of the total tissue, topographical variations of the tissue properties, surface fibril ambiguity, deformation of the articular cartilage, and cartilage lesion. The final section justifies the values of multidisciplinary imaging that correlates MRI with other technical modalities, such as optical imaging. Rather than an exhaustive review to capture all activities in the literature, the studies cited in this review are merely illustrative.


Articular cartilage; Depth-dependent profiles; Image analysis strategy; Image contrast; Imaging artefact; MRI; Microscopic resolution; Osteoarthritis; Relaxation times; Self-diffusion

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