A comparative study of diagnostic and imaging techniques for osteoarthritis of the trapezium

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Objectives. The aims of this study were to determine whether micro-CT is a reliable investigation method to evaluate the severity of OA in the trapezium and to develop a novel micro-CT scoring system based on a quantitative assessment of the subchondral bone thickness in order to better assess OA through an objective parameter.

Methods. We compared different diagnostic and imaging techniques performed consecutively on each sample: X-ray, visual analysis, micro-CT and histology. OA and healthy trapezia were subjected to semi-quantitative and quantitative analyses to be classified in four degrees of severity in OA (control, OA-2, OA-3 and OA-4). Specifically, samples were analysed using Dell’s score for X-ray, Brown’s score for visual analysis and Mankin’s score for histology. Micro-CT was scored using a novel quantitative scoring system based on subchondral bone thickness measurements. Results obtained with each technique were then compared and correlated.

Results. X-ray analysis showed a higher frequency of OA-2 (27%) and OA-3 (32%) compared with OA-4 (5%), whereas visual analysis, micro-CT and histology showed a lower percentage for OA-2 (18%, 18% and 14%) and OA-3 (23%) and increased frequency for OA-4 (45%, 32% and 40%). Only the micro-CT score of subchondral bone thickness correlated significantly with all the other techniques (P < 0.05).

Conclusion. This is the first comparison of techniques proposing a novel scoring system based on objective and quantitative micro-CT data that can be applied as a useful diagnostic tool for OA, providing a deeper comprehension of the pathophysiology of OA in trapezium.

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