Delayed gadolinium-enhanced magnetic resonance imaging of hip joint cartilage (dGEMRIC): pearls and pitfalls
With the increasing advances in hip joint preservation surgery, accurate diagnosis and assessment of femoral head and acetabular cartilage status is becoming increasingly important. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the hip does present technical difficulties. The fairly thin cartilage lining necessitates high image resolution and high contrast-to-noise ratio (CNR). With MR arthrography (MRA) using intraarticular injected gadolinium, labral tears and cartilage clefts may be better identified through the contrast medium filling into the clefts. However, the ability of MRA to detect varying grades of cartilage damage is fairly limited and early histological and biochemical changes in the beginning of osteoarthritis (OA) cannot be accurately delineated. Traditional MRI thus lacks the ability to analyze the biological status of cartilage degeneration. The technique of delayed gadolinium-enhanced MRI of cartilage (dGEMRIC) is sensitive to the charge density of cartilage contributed by glycosaminoglycans (GAGs), which are lost early in the process of OA. Therefore, the dGEMRIC technique has a potential to detect early cartilage damage that is obviously critical for decision-making regarding time and extent of intervention for joint-preservation. In the last decade, cartilage imaging with dGEMRIC has been established as an accurate and reliable tool for assessment of cartilage status in the knee and hip joint. This review outlines the current status of dGEMRIC for assessment of hip joint cartilage. Practical modifications of the standard technique including three-dimensional (3D) dGEMRIC and dGEMRIC after intra-articular gadolinium instead of iv-dGEMRIC will also be addressed.