Objectives: Osteoarthritis (OA) structural changes take place over decades in humans. MRI can provide precise and reliable information on the joint structure and changes over time. In this study, we investigated the reliability of quantitative MRI in assessing knee OA structural changes in the experimental anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) dog model of OA.
Methods: OA was surgically induced by transection of the ACL of the right knee in five dogs. High resolution three dimensional MRI using a 1.5 T magnet was performed at baseline, 4, 8 and 26 weeks post surgery. Cartilage volume/thickness, cartilage defects, trochlear osteophyte formation and subchondral bone lesion (hypersignal) were assessed on MRI images. Animals were killed 26 weeks post surgery and macroscopic evaluation was performed.
Results: There was a progressive and significant increase over time in the loss of knee cartilage volume, the cartilage defect and subchondral bone hypersignal. The trochlear osteophyte size also progressed over time. The greatest cartilage loss at 26 weeks was found on the tibial plateaus and in the medial compartment. There was a highly significant correlation between total knee cartilage volume loss or defect and subchondral bone hypersignal, and also a good correlation between the macroscopic and the MRI findings.
Conclusion: This study demonstrated that MRI is a useful technology to provide a non-invasive and reliable assessment of the joint structural changes during the development of OA in the ACL dog model. The combination of this OA model with MRI evaluation provides a promising tool for the evaluation of new disease-modifying osteoarthritis drugs (DMOADs).
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Competing interests: None declared.
Funding: Supported in part by a grant from the CR-CHUM and the Osteoarthritis Chair of the University of Montreal.
Ethics approval: The study protocol was approved by the Institutional Ethics Committee.
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