MRI Techniques Can Detect Early Osteoarthritis

September 6, 2011

Advanced MRI techniques may be used to detect subtle changes in joint cartilage microstructure, providing physicians with a diagnostic tool for finding key markers of early osteoarthritis (OA), according to researchers from NYU Langone Medical Center’s departments of orthopedic surgery and radiology.

Advanced MRI techniques may be used to detect subtle changes in joint cartilage microstructure, providing physicians with a diagnostic tool for finding key markers of early osteoarthritis (OA), according to researchers from NYU Langone Medical Center’s departments of orthopedic surgery and radiology. By using these techniques during patient examinations to identify OA earlier, clinicians can shift the focus of disease management from eventual joint reconstruction to long-term preservation. These study findings were published in a recent issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, an official publication of that organization.

Imaging technology is now sensitive and powerful enough to allow for detection of subtle changes in the intricate balance of water, chondrocytes, and the collagen fibers and protein molecules that make up joint cartilage, which can point to future OA, the researchers noted, suggesting that there is great potential for bringing these imaging techniques from the laboratory to the benefit of patients. They concluded that their findings support the use of these MRI techniques in the evaluation of younger patients with joint pain to identify the beginnings of OA, allowing for earlier treatment to halt disease progression before irreversible structural and morphological changes have occurred.

The full study can be found at http://www.jaaos.org/cgi/content/full/19/7/420. For more information about NYU Langone Medical Center’s orthopedic and rheumatology research, go to http://orthosurgery.med.nyu.edu/research.