MRI of the temporo-mandibular joint: which sequence is best suited to assess the cortical bone of the mandibular condyle? A cadaveric study using micro-CT as the standard of reference



To determine the best suited sagittal MRI sequence out of a standard temporo-mandibular joint (TMJ) imaging protocol for the assessment of the cortical bone of the mandibular condyles of cadaveric specimens using micro-CT as the standard of reference.


Sixteen TMJs in 8 human cadaveric heads (mean age, 81 years) were examined by MRI. Upon all sagittal sequences, two observers measured the cortical bone thickness (CBT) of the anterior, superior and posterior portions of the mandibular condyles (i.e. objective analysis), and assessed for the presence of cortical bone thinning, erosions or surface irregularities as well as subcortical bone cysts and anterior osteophytes (i.e. subjective analysis). Micro-CT of the condyles was performed to serve as the standard of reference for statistical analysis.


Inter-observer agreements for objective (r = 0.83-0.99, P < 0.01) and subjective (κ = 0.67-0.88) analyses were very good. Mean CBT measurements were most accurate, and cortical bone thinning, erosions, surface irregularities and subcortical bone cysts were best depicted on the 3D fast spoiled gradient echo recalled sequence (3D FSPGR).


The most reliable MRI sequence to assess the cortical bone of the mandibular condyles on sagittal imaging planes is the 3D FSPGR sequence.

Key Points

MRI may be used to assess the cortical bone of the TMJ.

Depiction of cortical bone is best on 3D FSPGR sequences.

MRI can assess treatment response in patients with TMJ abnormalities.

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The authors would like to thank L. Völlmer, M. Studhalter, B. Werner and A. Jezler for their technical and logistical assistance.

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Correspondence to Christoph A. Karlo.

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Karlo, C.A., Patcas, R., Kau, T. et al. MRI of the temporo-mandibular joint: which sequence is best suited to assess the cortical bone of the mandibular condyle? A cadaveric study using micro-CT as the standard of reference. Eur Radiol 22, 1579–1585 (2012).

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  • Mandibular condyle
  • MRI
  • Micro-CT
  • TMJ
  • JIA