Various treatment options for deep cartilage defects are presently available. The efficacy of bone marrow stimulation with microfracture, of mosaicplasty and of various autologous chondrocyte implantation (ACI) techniques has been subject to numerous studies recently. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) has gained a major role in the assessment of cartilage repair. The introduction of high-field MRI to clinical routine makes high resolution and three-dimensional imaging readily available. New quantitative MRI techniques that directly visualize the molecular structure of cartilage may further advance our understanding of cartilage repair. The clinical evaluation of cartilage repair tissue is a complex issue, and MR imaging will become increasingly important both in research and in clinical routine.
This article reviews the clinical aspects of microfracture, mosaicplasty, and ACI and reports the recent technical advances that have improved MRI of cartilage. Morphological evaluation methods are recommended for each of the respective techniques. Finally, an overview of T2 mapping and delayed gadolinium-enhanced MR imaging of cartilage in cartilage repair is provided.