The initial (I and II) and advanced (III and IV) stages of juvenile patellar chondromalacia. Its diagnosis by magnetic resonance using a 1.5-T magnet with FLASH sequences.

Macarini L, Rizzo A, Martino F, Zaccheo N, Angelelli G, Rotondo A. Radiol Med (Torino) 1998 Jun;95(6):557-62

PURPOSE: Juvenile patellar chondromalacia is a common orthopedic disorder which can mimic other conditions; early diagnosis is mandatory to prevent its evolution into osteoarthrosis. In the early stages of patellar chondromalacia (I and II), the lesions originate in the deep cartilage layer and the joint surface is not affected. Arthroscopy can demonstrate joint surface changes only and give indirect information about deeper lesions. We investigated the yield of 2D FLASH MRI with 30 degrees flip angle and a dedicated coil in the diagnosis of patellar chondromalacia, especially in its early stages. MATERIAL AND METHODS: Eighteen patients (mean age: 21 years) with clinically suspected patellar chondromalacia were examined with MRI; 13 of them were also submitted to arthroscopy. A 1.5 T unit with a transmit-and-receive extremity coil was used. We acquired T1 SE sequences (TR/TE: 500-700/15/20) and 2D T2* FLASH sequence (TR/TE/FA: 500-800/18/30 degrees). The field of view was 160-180 mm and the matrix 192 x 256, with 2-3 NEX. The images were obtained on the axial plane. The lesions were classified in 4 stages according to Shahriaree classification. RESULTS: Agreement between MR and arthroscopic findings was good in both early and advanced lesions in 12/13 cases. Early lesions appeared as hyperintense focal thickening of the hyaline cartilage (stage I) or as small cystic lesions within the cartilage and no articular surface involvement (stage II). The medial patellar facet was the most frequent site. Advanced lesions appeared as articular surface ulcerations, thinning and cartilage hypointensity (stage III); stage IV lesions presented as complete erosions of the hyaline cartilage and hypointense underlying bone. CONCLUSIONS: 2D FLASH MRI with 30 degrees flip angle can show the differences in water content in the cartilage and thus permit to detect early chondromalacia lesions in the deep cartilage.