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Association of diabetes mellitus and biochemical knee cartilage composition assessed by T2 relaxation time measurements: Data from the osteoarthritis initiative



To investigate the association of the presence and severity of diabetes mellitus (DM) with articular cartilage composition, using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)-based T2 relaxation time measurements, and structural knee abnormalities.

Materials and methods

In the Osteoarthritis Initiative 208, participants with DM (age 63.0 ± 8.9 years; 111 females) and risk factors for osteoarthritis (OA) or mild radiographic tibiofemoral OA (Kellgren-Lawrence [KL] grade ≤2) were identified and group-matched with 208 controls without DM (age 63.3 ± 9.1 years; 111 females). Subjects with diabetes-related renal or ophthalmological complications or insulin treatment at baseline (n = 50) were defined as severe DM. 3T MR images of the right knee were assessed for articular cartilage T2 , including texture and laminar analyses derived from the patella, medial, and lateral femur and tibia and for structural abnormalities using the modified whole-organ magnetic resonance imaging score (WORMS). Clustered linear regression analyses were used to assess associations of DM with MRI findings.


DM subjects had significantly higher cartilage T2 in the patella (mean difference 0.92 msec [95% confidence interval (CI) 0.79, 1.06]; P = 0.001) and medial femur (mean difference 0.36 msec [95% CI 0.27, 0.81]; P = 0.006) compared to controls. Averaged over all compartments, DM subjects showed significantly higher texture parameters (variance, P = 0.001; contrast, P = 0.002; entropy, P < 0.001). Subjects with severe DM additionally showed higher T2 in the medial tibial deep and superficial layers (P = 0.011 and P = 0.041) compared to controls. No significant differences in cartilage, meniscus, and overall WORMS were found between the groups (P > 0.05).


In comparison to nondiabetic controls, cartilage in DM subjects showed higher and more heterogeneous cartilage T2 values, indicating increased articular cartilage degeneration. This affected even more compartments in subjects with severe DM.

Level of evidence

2 Technical Efficacy: 5 J. Magn. Reson. Imaging 2018;47:380-390.

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