© 2011 Orthopaedic Research Society. Published by Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Orthop Res 30:919–926, 2012

Association of MR relaxation and cartilage deformation in knee osteoarthritis

K. Subburaj R. B. Souza C. Stehling B. T. Wyman M.‐P. Le Graverand‐Gastineau T. M. Link X. Li S. Majumdar

We assessed the relationship between cartilage MR relaxation times and biomechanical response of tibiofemoral articular cartilage to physiological loading in healthy subjects and patients with osteoarthritis (OA). Female subjects above 40 years of age with (N1 = 20) and without (N2 = 10) OA were imaged on a 3T MR scanner using a custom made loading device. MR images were acquired with the knee flexed at 20° with and without a compressive load of 50% of the subject’s bodyweight. The subjects were categorized based on the clinical MRI scoring of medial and lateral cartilage surfaces. Data were stratified twice into two equal groups (low and high) at the median value of T and T2 relaxation time. The change in contact area and cartilage deformation was measured within these groups. Paired Student’s t‐test (α = 0.05) was used to analyze the effect of loading on contact area and deformation. The average area of the contact region in the medial compartment was significantly higher in OA subjects compared with normal subjects in both unloaded (314 ± 112 mm2 vs. 227 ± 106 mm2p = 0.023) and loaded (425 ± 128 mm2 vs. 316 ± 107 mm2p = 0.01) conditions. The overall relative change of cartilage thickness in the medial compartment was significantly higher than the lateral compartment (−5.3 ± 9.9% vs. −1.9 ± 9.2%, p = 0.042). When cartilage was divided into deep and superficial layers, superficial layers showed higher changes in relaxation time (T and T2) than the changes in relaxation time of whole cartilage (Normal: 12.5% vs. 6.9%; OA: 10.9% vs. 4.6%). The average T and T2 times, change in area of contact region, and change in cartilage thickness in subjects with OA were higher when compared to normal subjects. This study provides support for a relationship between the mechanical response of cartilage to physiological loading (cartilage‐on‐cartilage contact area and cartilage deformation) and MR relaxation times (T and T2) in both OA patients and normal subjects.

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