The aim of this study was to grade cartilage damage in a swine model of osteoarthritis using a whole-body photon-counting detector (PCD) CT.
Materials and Methods
A multienergy phantom containing gadolinium (Gd) (2, 4, 8, and 16 mg/mL) and hydroxyapatite (200 and 400 mg/cc) was scanned using a PCD-CT system (48 × 0.25 mm collimation, 80 kV, 800 mAs, D50 reconstruction kernel) to serve as calibration for material decomposition and to assess quantification accuracy. Osteoarthritis was induced in Yucatan miniswine (n = 8) using 1.2 mg monoiodoacetate (MIA) injected into a randomized knee, whereas the contralateral control knee received saline. Twenty-one days later, a contrast bolus (gadoterate meglumine, 4 mL/knee) was intra-articularly administered into both knees. The knees were simultaneously scanned on the PCD-CT system (48 × 0.25 mm collimation, 80 kV, 800 mAs). Multienergy images were reconstructed with a sharp “V71” kernel and a quantitative “D50” kernel. Image denoising was applied to the V71 images before grading cartilage damage, and an iterative material decomposition technique was applied to D50 images to generate the Gd maps. Two radiologists blinded to the knee injection status graded the cartilage integrity based on a modified International Cartilage Repair Society scoring system. Histology was performed on excised cartilage using methylene blue/basic fuchsin. Statistical analysis of grade distribution was performed using an exact test of omnibus symmetry with P < 0.05 considered significant.
Material decomposed images from the multienergy phantom scan showed delineation and quantification of Gd and hydroxyapatite with a root-mean-squared error of 0.3 mg/mL and 18.4 mg/cc, respectively. In the animal cohort, the radiologists reported chondromalacia in the MIA knees with International Cartilage Repair Society scores ranging from grade 1 (cartilage heterogeneity, n = 4 knees) to grade 3 (up to 100% cartilage loss, n = 4 knees). Grade 1 was characterized by cartilage heterogeneity and increased joint space in the patellofemoral compartment, whereas grade 3 was characterized by cartilage erosion and bone-on-bone articulation in the patellofemoral compartment. All control knees were scored as grade 0 (normal cartilage). Significant difference (P = 0.004) was observed in the grade distribution between the MIA and control knees. Gross examination of the excised knees showed cartilage lesions in the grade 3 MIA knees. The Gd maps from material decomposition showed lower contrast levels in the joint space of the MIA knee compared with the contralateral control knee due to joint effusion. Histology revealed chondrocyte loss in the MIA knee cartilage confirming the chondrotoxic effects of MIA on cartilage matrix.
We demonstrated a high-resolution and quantitative PCD-CT arthrography technique for grading cartilage damage in a large animal model of osteoarthritis. Photon-counting detector CT offers simultaneous high-resolution and multienergy imaging capabilities that allowed morphological assessment of cartilage loss and quantification of contrast levels in the joint as a marker of joint disease. Cartilage damage in the MIA knees was graded using PCD-CT images, and the image-based findings were further confirmed using histology and gross examination of the excised knees.