Detection of early cartilage damage: feasibility and potential of gagCEST imaging at 7T
Objectives: The purpose was to implement a fast 3D glycosaminoglycan Chemical Exchange Saturation Transfer (gagCEST) sequence at 7 T, test stability and reproducibility in cartilage in the knee in healthy volunteers, and evaluate clinical applicability in cartilage repair patients.
Methods: Experiments were carried out on a 7-T scanner using a volume transmit coil and a 32-channel receiver wrap-around knee coil. The 3D gagCEST measurement had an acquisition time of 7 min. Signal stability and reproducibility of the GAG effect were assessed in eight healthy volunteers. Clinical applicability of the method was demonstrated in five patients before cartilage repair surgery.
Results: Coefficient of variation of the gagCEST signal was 1.9%. The reproducibility of the GAG effect measurements was good in the medial condyle (ICC = 0.87) and excellent in the lateral condyle (ICC = 0.97). GAG effect measurements in healthy cartilage ranged from 2.6%-12.4% compared with 1.3%-5.1% in damaged cartilage. Difference in GAG measurement between healthy cartilage and damaged cartilage was significant (p < 0.05).
Conclusions: A fast 3D gagCEST sequence was applied at 7 T for use in cartilage in the knee, acquired within a clinically feasible scan time of 7 min. We demonstrated that the method has high stability, reproducibility and clinical applicability.
Key points: • gagCEST measurements are stable and reproducible • A non-invasive GAG measurement with gagCEST can be acquired in 7 min • gagCEST is able to discriminate between healthy and damaged cartilage.
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