Quantitative analysis of the ACL and PCL using T1rho and T2 relaxation time mapping: an exploratory, cross-sectional comparison between OA and healthy control knees

Chanuka D. S. Ranmuthu, James W. MacKay, Victoria A. Crowe, Joshua D. Kaggie, Dimitri A. Kessler, Stephen M. McDonnell

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Background: Quantitative magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) methods such as T1rho and T2 mapping are sensitive to changes in tissue composition, however their use in cruciate ligament assessment has been limited to studies of asymptomatic populations or patients with posterior cruciate ligament tears only. The aim of this preliminary study was to compare T1rho and T2 relaxation times of the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) between subjects with mild-to-moderate knee osteoarthritis (OA) and healthy controls. Methods: A single knee of 15 patients with mild-to-moderate knee OA (Kellgren-Lawrence grades 2–3) and of 6 age-matched controls was imaged using a 3.0 T MRI. Three-dimensional (3D) fat-saturated spoiled gradient recalled-echo images were acquired for morphological assessment and T1ρ- and T2-prepared pseudo-steady-state 3D fast spin echo images for compositional assessment of the cruciate ligaments. Manual segmentation of whole ACL and PCL, as well as proximal / middle / distal thirds of both ligaments was carried out by two readers using ITK-SNAP and mean relaxation times were recorded. Variation between thirds of the ligament were assessed using repeated measures ANOVAs and differences in these variations between groups using a Kruskal-Wallis test. Inter- and intra-rater reliability were assessed using intraclass correlation coefficients (ICCs). Results: In OA knees, both T1rho and T2 values were significantly higher in the distal ACL when compared to the rest of the ligament with the greatest differences in T1rho (e.g. distal mean = 54.5 ms, proximal = 47.0 ms, p < 0.001). The variation of T2 values within the PCL was lower in OA knees (OA: distal vs middle vs proximal mean = 28.5 ms vs 29.1 ms vs 28.7 ms, p = 0.748; Control: distal vs middle vs proximal mean = 26.4 ms vs 32.7 ms vs 33.3 ms, p = 0.009). ICCs were excellent for the majority of variables. Conclusion: T1rho and T2 mapping of the cruciate ligaments is feasible and reliable. Changes within ligaments associated with OA may not be homogeneous. This study is an important step forward in developing a non-invasive, radiological biomarker to assess the ligaments in diseased human populations in-vivo.

Original languageEnglish
Article number916
JournalBMC Musculoskeletal Disorders
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 30 Oct 2021


  • Anterior cruciate ligament
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Posterior cruciate ligament
  • T1rho mapping
  • T2 mapping

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