Articular cartilage is critical to the normal function of diarthrodial joints. Despite the importance of the tissue and the prevalence of cartilage degeneration (e.g., osteoarthritis), the technology required to noninvasively describe nonuniform deformations throughout the volume of the tissue has not been available until recently. The objectives of the work reported in this paper were to 1) describe a noninvasive technique (termed the cartilage deformation by tag registration (CDTR) technique) to determine nonuniform deformations in articular cartilage explants with the use of specialized MRI tagging and image processing methods, 2) evaluate the strain error of the CDTR technique using a custom MRI-compatible phantom material, and 3) demonstrate the applicability of the CDTR technique to articular cartilage by determining 3D strain fields throughout the volume of a bovine articular cartilage explant. A custom MRI pulse sequence was designed to tag and image articular cartilage explants at 7 Tesla in undeformed and deformed states during the application of multiple load cycles. The custom pulse sequence incorporated the "delays alternating with nutations for tailored excitation" (DANTE) pulse sequence to apply tags. This was followed by a "fast spin echo" (FSE) pulse sequence to create images of the tags. The error analysis using the phantom material indicated that deformations can be determined with an error, defined as the strain precision, better than 0.83% strain. When this technique was applied to a single articular cartilage explant loaded in unconfined compression, hetereogeneous deformations throughout the volume of the tissue were evident. This technique potentially can be applied to determine normal cartilage deformations, analyze degenerated cartilage, and evaluate cartilage surgical repair and treatment methodologies. In addition, this technique may be applied to other soft tissues that can be appropriately imaged by MR.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
- Radiological and Ultrasound Technology