Published online Jan 28, 2010. doi: 10.4329/wjr.v2.i1.44
Revised: January 12, 2010
Accepted: January 20, 2010
Published online: January 28, 2010
Attrition and eventual loss of articular cartilage are important elements in the pathophysiology of osteoarthritis (OA). Preventing the breakdown of cartilage is believed to be critical to preserve the functional integrity of a joint. Chondral injuries are also common in the knee joint, and many patients benefit from cartilage repair. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and advanced digital post-processing techniques have opened possibilities for in vivo analysis of cartilage morphology, structure, and function in healthy and diseased knee joints. Techniques of semi-quantitative scoring of human knee cartilage pathology and quantitative assessment of human cartilage have been developed. Cartilage thickness and volume have been quantified in humans as well as in small animals. MRI detected cartilage loss has been shown to be more sensitive than radiographs detecting joint space narrowing. It is possible to longitudinally study knee cartilage morphology with enough accuracy to follow the disease-caused changes and also evaluate the therapeutic effects of chondro-protective drugs. There are also several MRI methods that may allow evaluation of the glycosaminoglycan matrix or collagen network of articular cartilage, and may be more sensitive for the detection of early changes. The clinical relevance of these methods is being validated. With the development of new therapies for OA and cartilage injury, MR images will play an important role in the diagnosis, staging, and evaluation of the effectiveness of these therapies.