Background: In patients with degenerative meniscal tears, subclinical cartilage degeneration may be present even if gross morphological changes are not evident. The aim of this study was to detect occult cartilage degeneration using T1ρ MRI mapping in patients with meniscal tears without obvious radiographic osteoarthritis (OA). Methods: A total of 22 subjects with degenerative meniscal tears in the early stages of osteoarthritis [Kellgren-Lawrence (KL) grade of 0-2] and 19 healthy subjects as the control group were examined. The femoral condyle was divided into four 30° wedges (-30°-0° anteriorly, 0°-30°, 30°-60° and 60°-90° posteriorly), and each area of cartilage was further divided into superficial and deep layers of equal thickness. The tibial side was divided into anterior and posterior areas with superficial and deep layers in each. The mean T1ρ values (ms) in each area were calculated. Results: On the femoral side, T1ρ values of the superficial and deep regions (-30°-0°, 0°-30° and 30°-60°) in the meniscal tear group were significantly higher than those in the control group [superficial (-30°-0°): 49.0 ± 4.0 (meniscal tear group) vs 45.1 ± 2.1 (control group), deep (-30°-0°): 45.2 ± 3.3 vs 39.5 ± 5.0, superficial (0°-30°): 54.5 ± 5.3 vs 47.4 ± 5.7, deep (0°-30°): 46.8 ± 4.0 vs 40.7 ± 6.3, superficial (30°-60°): 50.5 ± 3.1 vs 47.1 ± 5.7]. On the tibial side, the meniscal tear group had significantly higher T1ρ values superficially in both anterior and posterior regions compared with the control group [superficial (anterior): 52.0 ± 4.3 vs 46.7 ± 5.4, superficial (posterior): 53.1 ± 5.1 vs 46.0 ± 4.9]. Moreover, these significant differences were observed when comparing patients in the meniscal tear group with KL grades of 0 or 1 and the control group. Conclusions: Our study suggested that early biochemical changes in cartilage associated with degenerative meniscal tears occur first in the superficial zones in areas of contact during slight flexion. Characterising the early relationship between cartilage degeneration and degenerative meniscal tears using T1ρ MRI mapping may be of clinical benefit and provide further evidence linking meniscal injury to OA.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Orthopedics and Sports Medicine