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Relationship Between Quantitative MRI Biomarkers and Patient-Reported Outcome Measures After Cartilage Repair Surgery: A Systematic Review



Treatment of articular cartilage injuries remains a clinical challenge, and the optimal tools to monitor and predict clinical outcomes are unclear. Quantitative magnetic resonance imaging (qMRI) allows for a noninvasive biochemical evaluation of cartilage and may offer advantages in monitoring outcomes after cartilage repair surgery.


qMRI sequences will correlate with early pain and functional measures.

Study design

Systematic review; Level of evidence, 3.


A PubMed search was performed with the following search terms: knee AND (cartilage repair OR cartilage restoration OR cartilage surgery) AND (delayed gadolinium-enhanced MRI OR t1-rho OR T2 mapping OR dgemric OR sodium imaging OR quantitative imaging). Studies were included if correlation data were included on quantitative imaging results and patient outcome scores.


Fourteen articles were included in the analysis. Eight studies showed a significant relationship between quantitative cartilage imaging and patient outcome scores, while 6 showed no relationship. T2 mapping was examined in 11 studies, delayed gadolinium-enhanced MRI of cartilage (dGEMRIC) in 4 studies, sodium imaging in 2 studies, glycosaminoglycan chemical exchange saturation transfer (gagCEST) in 1 study, and diffusion-weighted imaging in 1 study. Five studies on T2 mapping showed a correlation between T2 relaxation times and clinical outcome scores. Two dGEMRIC studies found a correlation between T1 relaxation times and clinical outcome scores.


Multiple studies on T2 mapping, dGEMRIC, and diffusion-weighted imaging showed significant correlations with patient-reported outcome measures after cartilage repair surgery, although other studies showed no significant relationship. qMRI sequences may offer a noninvasive method to monitor cartilage repair tissue in a clinically meaningful way, but further refinements in imaging protocols and clinical interpretation are necessary to improve utility.

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