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An in vitro comparative study of T2 and T2* mappings of human articular cartilage at 3-Tesla MRI using histology as the standard of reference



The aim of this study was to evaluate the correlations between T2 value, T2* value, and histological grades of degenerated human articular cartilage.

Materials and methods

T2 mapping and T2* mapping of nine tibial osteochondral specimens were obtained using a 3-T MRI after total knee arthroplasty. A total of 94 ROIs were analyzed. Histological grades were assessed using the David–Vaudey scale. Spearman’s rho correlation analysis and Pearson’s correlation analysis were performed.


The mean relaxation values in T2 map with different histological grades (0, 1, 2) of the cartilage were 51.9 ± 9.2 ms, 55.8 ± 12.8 ms, and 59.6 ± 10.2 ms, respectively. The mean relaxation values in T2* map with different histological grades (0, 1, 2) of the cartilage were 20.3 ± 10.3 ms, 21.1 ± 12.4 ms, and 15.4 ± 8.5 ms, respectively. Spearman’s rho correlation analysis confirmed a positive correlation between T2 value and histological grade (ρ = 0.313, p < 0.05). Pearson’s correlation analysis revealed a significant negative correlation between T2 and T2* (r = −0.322, p < 0.05). Although T2* values showed a decreasing trend with an increase in cartilage degeneration, this correlation was not statistically significant in this study (ρ = −0.192, p = 0.129).


T2 mapping was correlated with histological degeneration, and it may be a good biomarker for osteoarthritis in human articular cartilage. However, the strength of the correlation was weak (ρ = 0.313). Although T2* values showed a decreasing trend with an increase in cartilage degeneration, the correlation was not statistically significant. Therefore, T2 mapping may be more appropriate for the initial diagnosis of articular cartilage degeneration in the knee joint. Further studies on T2* mapping are needed to confirm its reliability and mechanism in cartilage degeneration.

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Professor Lee KB, Dr. Jin Long Hao and Xuenan Cui are gratefully acknowledged. This study was supported by a grant from the Korea Healthcare Technology R&D Project, Ministry for Health, Welfare, and Family Affairs, Republic of Korea (A091120).

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Correspondence to Kyu-Sung Kwack.

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Kim, T., Min, BH., Yoon, SH. et al. An in vitro comparative study of T2 and T2* mappings of human articular cartilage at 3-Tesla MRI using histology as the standard of reference. Skeletal Radiol 43, 947–954 (2014).

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  • MRI
  • Cartilage
  • Knee
  • Histology
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Biomarkers