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J Magn Reson Imaging. 1998 Nov-Dec;8(6):1246-51.

MRI of patellar articular cartilage: evaluation of an optimized gradient echo sequence (3D-DESS).

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Department of Radiology, University of Zurich, Switzerland.


Our purpose was to evaluate the diagnostic efficacy of a gradient-echo sequence optimized for cartilage imaging in patellar cartilage abnormalities and to compare it to a standard turbo-spin-echo sequence. Fifty-eight consecutive patients who underwent, within 3 months both MRI and arthroscopy or surgery, were included in the investigation. Two radiologists specializing in musculoskeletal imaging independently assessed axial three-dimensional double-echo steady state (3D-DESS) gradient-echo images and sagittal proton- and T2-weighted turbo-spin-echo images with regard to retropatellar cartilage abnormalities. Possible findings were: 0: normal, 1: cartilage softening, and 2: lesion of the articular surface. Inter- and intraobserver variability was assessed. For cartilage softening, the axial 3D-DESS sequence had a sensitivity of 73%, a specificity of 75%, and an accuracy of 70%. The corresponding results for the sagittal turbo-spin-echo sequence were 53%, 65%, and 62%. For surface lesions, the results for the 3D-DESS sequence were 43%, 92%, and 83% and for the turbo-spin-echo sequence were 60%, 92%, and 86%. Intra- and interobserver agreement was moderate (k = 0.59 and 0.45 [DESS], 0.6 and 0.46 [turbo -spin-echo]). We conclude that the 3D-DESS sequence is moderately accurate in detecting patellar cartilage abnormalities. Compared with the sagittal turbo-spin-echo sequence, the axial 3D-DESS sequence is superior in diagnosing cartilage softening but not surface lesions.

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