Magnetic resonance (MR) imaging of articular cartilage is important in evaluation of new surgical and pharmacologic treatments for cartilage damage. Many techniques exist for MR imaging of articular cartilage. Standard techniques for morphologic imaging of cartilage include fast spin-echo and spoiled gradient-echo imaging. These methods provide high-resolution morphologic images of cartilage but are time-consuming in the clinical setting. New methods for faster or higher-resolution morphologic imaging include techniques based on steady-state free precession imaging. These fast techniques will allow detailed evaluation of cartilage in the routine clinical setting. There are also several MR imaging methods that may provide information about the structure and physiology of cartilage. Physiologic imaging may allow detailed evaluation of the glycosaminoglycan matrix or collagen network of articular cartilage and may be the most sensitive method for detection of early changes. With the development of new therapies for osteoarthritis and cartilage injury, MR imaging of articular cartilage is of increasing clinical importance. MR imaging will play an important role in evaluation of the effectiveness of these therapies.
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