Bone and Joint Institute

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BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders





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© 2019 The Author(s). Background: Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) T2 and T1ρ relaxation are increasingly being proposed as imaging biomarkers potentially capable of detecting biochemical changes in articular cartilage before structural changes are evident. We aimed to: 1) summarize MRI methods of published studies investigating T2 and T1ρ relaxation time in participants at risk for but without radiographic knee OA; and 2) compare T2 and T1ρ relaxation between participants at-risk for knee OA and healthy controls. Methods: We conducted a systematic review of studies reporting T2 and T1ρ relaxation data that included both participants at risk for knee OA and healthy controls. Participant characteristics, MRI methodology, and T1ρ and T2 relaxation data were extracted. Standardized mean differences (SMDs) were calculated within each study. Pooled effect sizes were then calculated for six commonly segmented knee compartments. Results: 55 articles met eligibility criteria. There was considerable variability between scanners, coils, software, scanning protocols, pulse sequences, and post-processing. Moderate risk of bias due to lack of blinding was common. Pooled effect sizes indicated participants at risk for knee OA had lengthened T2 relaxation time in all compartments (SMDs from 0.33 to 0.74; p < 0.01) and lengthened T1ρ relaxation time in the femoral compartments (SMD from 0.35 to 0.40; p < 0.001). Conclusions: T2 and T1ρ relaxation distinguish participants at risk for knee OA from healthy controls. Greater standardization of MRI methods is both warranted and required for progress towards biomarker validation.


This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.

The article was originally published:

Atkinson, H.F., Birmingham, T.B., Moyer, R.F. et al. MRI T2 and T1ρ relaxation in patients at risk for knee osteoarthritis: a systematic review and meta-analysis. BMC Musculoskelet Disord 20, 182 (2019).

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

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