Contrast-Enhanced Computed Tomography Enables Quantitative Evaluation of Tissue Properties at Intrajoint Regions in Cadaveric Knee Cartilage

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Abstract

Objective

The aim of this study was to investigate whether the concentration of the anionic contrast agent ioxaglate, as quantitated by contrast-enhanced computed tomography (CECT) using a clinical cone-beam CT (CBCT) instrument, reflects biochemical, histological, and biomechanical characteristics of articular cartilage imaged in an ex vivo, intact human knee joint.

Design

An osteoarthritic human cadaveric knee joint (91 years old) was injected with ioxaglate (36 mg I/mL) and imaged using CBCT over 61 hours of ioxaglate diffusion into cartilage. Following imaging, the joint surfaces were excised, rinsed to remove contrast agent, and compressive stiffness (equilibrium and instantaneous compressive moduli) was measured via indentation testing (n = 17 sites). Each site was sectioned for histology and assessed for glycosaminoglycan content using digital densitometry of Safranin-O stained sections, Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy for collagen content, and morphology using both the Mankin and OARSI semiquantitative scoring systems. Water content was determined using mass change after lyophilization.

Results

CECT attenuation at all imaging time points, including those <1 hour of ioxaglate exposure, correlated significantly (P < 0.05) with cartilage water and glycosaminoglycan contents, Mankin score, and both equilibrium and instantaneous compressive moduli. Early time points (<30 minutes) also correlated (P < 0.05) with collagen content and OARSI score. Differences in cartilage quality between intrajoint regions were distinguishable at diffusion equilibrium and after brief ioxaglate exposure.

Conclusions

CECT with ioxaglate affords biochemical and biomechanical measurements of cartilage health and performance even after short, clinically relevant exposure times, and may be useful in the clinic as a means for detecting early signs of cartilage pathology.

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