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Quantitative measurements of articular cartilage by magnetic resonance imaging

There is now ever-increasing acceptance that magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) can provide valuable, possibly unique, measurement data for an articular joint as a complete organ. Thus a single MRI scan, duration 10 min, which can be measured with most whole body scanners, visualises not only all the soft tissues within the joint capsule (articular cartilage, ligaments, menisci) and those surrounding it (muscles, tendons, blood vessels), but also the bone (both cortical and trabecular). Importantly, recent software developments enable quantitation of the dimensions of those structural elements. Particular attention has focused on human knee articular cartilage and a large number of studies have already reported measurement of total volumes or local volumes, and of mean cartilage thickness for an entire condyle or more localised regions.

This poster will provide an overview of studies from the Herchel Smith Laboratory that demonstrate the practical realities of quantitative measurements relevant to the longitudinal studies that must be made for human drug trials. The specific questions that we have explored since 1995 include the following:

  • Is it best to make 'focal' or 'total' measurements?

  • How to enhance reproducibility of spatial relocation for serial measurements?

  • What are the best statistical definitions of measurement repeatability?

  • How to decrease interobserver variations of spatial measurements?

  • How to enhance measurement ergonomics?

  • How to automate the measurement processes?


Herchel Smith endowment.

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Hall, L., Burge, J., Evans, S. et al. Quantitative measurements of articular cartilage by magnetic resonance imaging. Arthritis Res Ther 6 (Suppl 3), 55 (2004).

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