© 2015 Orthopaedic Research Society. Published by Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Orthop Res 34:771–778, 2016.

In vivo deformation of thin cartilage layers: Feasibility and applicability of T2* mapping

Ans Van Ginckel Erik E. Witvrouw

The objectives of this study were as follows: (i) to assess segmentation consistency and scan precision of T2* mapping of human tibio‐talar cartilage, and (ii) to monitor changes in T2* relaxation times of ankle cartilage immediately following a clinically relevant in vivo exercise and during recovery. Using multi‐echo gradient recalled echo sequences, averaged T2* values were calculated for tibio‐talar cartilage layers in 10 healthy volunteers. Segmentation consistency and scan precision were determined from two repeated segmentations and two repeated acquisitions with repositioning, respectively. Subsequently, acute in vivo cartilage loading responses were monitored by calculating averaged tibio‐talar T2* values at rest, immediately after (i.e., deformation) and at 15 min (i.e., recovery) following a 30‐repetition knee bending exercise. Precision errors attained 4–6% with excellent segmentation consistency point estimates (i.e., intra‐rater ICC of 0.95) and acceptable limits of confidence. At deformation, T2* values were increased in both layers [+16.1 (10.7)%, p = 0.004 and +17.3 (15.3)%, p = 0.023, for the talus and tibia, respectively] whereas during recovery no significant changes could be established when comparing to baseline [talar cartilage: +5.2 (8.2)%, p = 0.26 and tibial cartilage: +6.6 (10.4)%, p = 0.23]. T2* mapping is a viable method to monitor deformational behavior in thin cartilage layers such as ankle cartilage. Longitudinal changes in T2* can be reliably appraised and require at least 4–6% differences to ascertain statistical significance. The ability to detect considerable change even after non‐strenuous loading events, endorses T2* mapping as an innovative method to evaluate the effects of therapeutic exercise on thin cartilage layers.

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