Objective: To investigate the potential of quantitative susceptibility mapping (QSM) and T2* relaxation time mapping to determine mechanical and structural properties of articular cartilage via univariate and multivariate analysis.
Methods: Samples were obtained from a cartilage repair study, in which surgically induced full-thickness chondral defects in the stifle joints of seven Shetland ponies caused post-traumatic osteoarthritis (14 samples). Control samples were collected from non-operated joints of three animals (6 samples). Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) was performed at 9.4 T, using a 3-D multi-echo gradient echo sequence. Biomechanical testing, digital densitometry (DD) and polarized light microscopy (PLM) were utilized as reference methods. To compare MRI parameters with reference parameters (equilibrium and dynamic moduli, proteoglycan content, collagen fiber angle and -anisotropy), depth-wise profiles of MRI parameters were acquired at the biomechanical testing locations. Partial least squares regression (PLSR) and Spearman’s rank correlation were utilized in data analysis.
Results: PLSR indicated a moderate-to-strong correlation (ρ = 0.49-0.66) and a moderate correlation (ρ = 0.41-0.55) between the reference values and T2* relaxation time and QSM profiles, respectively (excluding superficial-only results). PLSR correlations were noticeably higher than direct correlations between bulk MRI and reference parameters. 3-D parametric surface maps revealed spatial variations in the MRI parameters between experimental and control groups.
Conclusion: Quantitative parameters from 3-D multi-echo gradient echo MRI can be utilized to predict the properties of articular cartilage. With PLSR, especially the T2* relaxation time profile appeared to correlate with the properties of cartilage. Furthermore, the results suggest that degeneration affects the QSM-contrast in the cartilage. However, this change in contrast is not easy to quantify.
Full Access Link: Osteoarthritis and Cartilage