What is articular cartilage?
Cartilage is a type of stiff yet flexible connective tissue. A type of cartilage called articular cartilage (also called hyaline cartilage) lines the end surfaces of bones that meet at joints, such as knees. It enables the bone surfaces to roll or slide over each other when the joint moves. Being resilient, it cushions the bones, absorbs shock, and helps distribute weight. In addition to the knees, articular cartilage is also found in the hips, shoulders, elbows and ribs.
Articular cartilage damage
The normal activities of life can cause gradual cartilage damage. Think of how often you go up and down stairs, and imagine how much use the knee cartilage gets. The cartilage coating can become thin and begin to wear away. Other causes of deterioration include strenuous overuse in athletics or certain kinds of work, the extra load caused by obesity, poor joint alignment, or a joint injury. As cartilage thins, it can lead to a degenerative condition called osteoarthritis. In turn, this can trigger further cartilage damage. In the long term, debilitating pain can occur forcing limitations on normal activity. Fortunately, there are therapies that can help. Particularly with knee damage, early detection and intervention can repair or even reverse cartilage deterioration. Therefore, it is important to diagnose the location and extent of cartilage damage in order to have correct treatment.
Cartilage mapping using MRI
Thanks to magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) it is possible to noninvasively obtain an accurate map of articular cartilage damage. Unlike arthroscopy (a surgical procedure to insert a thin scope to look at the damage), MRI is completely noninvasive. In fact, MRI is the optimal noninvasive method for assessment of articular cartilage. It overcomes the challenge of imaging the thin layer of cartilage with its smooth curved contours. Without any exposure to radiation, as occurs in x-rays, MRI offers detailed spatial resolution and excellent soft tissue contrast.
Cartilage mapping at the Sperling Diagnostic Center
The Sperling Diagnostic Center takes cartilage mapping to a higher level, thanks to our magnet’s powerful field strength. It performs the necessary range of imaging sequences for pinpointing the location and extent of cartilage damage. Whether the damage is due to deterioration or trauma, our experienced team of MRI technicians and radiologists are able to optimize cartilage mapping. We also offer MRI cartilage mapping after treatment in order to evaluate treatment success.
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Recht M, Goodwin D, Winalski C, White L. MRI of articular cartilage: revisiting current status and future directions. Am J Roent. 2005;185:899-914.