Evaluation of the Articular Cartilage of the Knee Joint: Value of Adding a T2 Mapping Sequence to a Routine MR Imaging Protocol

Departments of Radiology, Statistics, and Orthopedic Surgery, University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, 600 Highland Ave, Clinical Science Center-E3/311, Madison, WI 53792-3252.
Radiology (Impact Factor: 6.87). 01/2013; 267(2). DOI: 10.1148/radiol.12121413
Source: PubMed


To determine whether the addition of a T2 mapping sequence to a routine magnetic resonance (MR) imaging protocol could improve diagnostic performance in the detection of surgically confirmed cartilage lesions within the knee joint at 3.0 T.

Materials and methods:
This prospective study was approved by the institutional review board, and the requirement to obtain informed consent was waived. The study group consisted of 150 patients (76 male and 74 female patients with an average age of 41.2 and 41.5 years, respectively) who underwent MR imaging and arthroscopy of the knee joint. MR imaging was performed at 3.0 T by using a routine protocol with the addition of a sagittal T2 mapping sequence. Images from all MR examinations were reviewed in consensus by two radiologists before surgery to determine the presence or absence of cartilage lesions on each articular surface, first by using the routine MR protocol alone and then by using the routine MR protocol with T2 maps. Each articular surface was then evaluated at arthroscopy. Generalized estimating equation models were used to compare the sensitivity and specificity of the routine MR imaging protocol with and without T2 maps in the detection of surgically confirmed cartilage lesions.

The sensitivity and specificity in the detection of 351 cartilage lesions were 74.6% and 97.8%, respectively, for the routine MR protocol alone and 88.9% and 93.1% for the routine MR protocol with T2 maps. Differences in sensitivity and specificity were statistically significant (P < .001). The addition of T2 maps to the routine MR imaging protocol significantly improved the sensitivity in the detection of 24 areas of cartilage softening (from 4.2% to 62%, P < .001), 41 areas of cartilage fibrillation (from 20% to 66%, P < .001), and 96 superficial partial-thickness cartilage defects (from 71% to 88%, P = .004).

The addition of a T2 mapping sequence to a routine MR protocol at 3.0 T improved sensitivity in the detection of cartilage lesions within the knee joint from 74.6% to 88.9%, with only a small reduction in specificity. The greatest improvement in sensitivity with use of the T2 maps was in the identification of early cartilage degeneration.

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