Reproducibility and regional variations of an improved gagCEST protocol for the in vivo evaluation of knee cartilage at 7 T

Markus M. Schreiner, Štefan Zbýň, Benjamin Schmitt, Michael Weber, Stephan Domayer, Reinhard Windhager, Siegfried Trattnig, Vladimir Mlynárik

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Objective: The objective was to establish a gagCEST protocol that would enable robust and reproducible assessment of the glycosaminoglycan (GAG) content in knee cartilage at 7 T within a clinically feasible measurement time. Materials and methods: Ten young healthy volunteers (mean age 26 years, range 24–28, five males, five females) were examined on a 7 T MR system. Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants prior to enrollment into the study. Each volunteer was measured twice for reproducibility assessment. The examined knee was immobilized using a custom-made fixation device. For the gagCEST measurement, a prototype segmented 3-D RF-spoiled gradient-echo sequence with an improved saturation scheme employing adiabatic pulses was used in a scan time of 19 min. The asymmetry of the Z-spectra (MTRasym) in selected regions of interest in knee cartilage was calculated. Differences in MTRasym between different regions were evaluated using ANOVA and the Bonferroni corrected post hoc test. Results: The improvement of the saturation scheme reduced the influence of field inhomogeneities, resulted in more uniform saturation, and allowed for good reproducibility in a reasonable measurement time (19 min), as demonstrated by an intraclass correlation coefficient of 0.77. Improved fixation helped to reduce motion artifacts. Whereas similar MTRasym values were found for weight-bearing and non-weight-bearing femoral cartilage, lower values were observed in the trochlear groove (p = 0.028), patellar (p = 0.015) and tibial cartilage (p < 0.001) when compared to non-weight-bearing femoral cartilage. Conclusion: Reasonable reproducibility and sensitivity to regional differences in GAG content suggests that the improved gagCEST protocol might be useful for assessing the biochemical changes in articular cartilage that are associated with early stages of cartilage degeneration.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)513-521
Number of pages9
JournalMagnetic Resonance Materials in Physics, Biology and Medicine
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 1 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • 7 T
  • CEST
  • Cartilage
  • Glycosaminoglycans
  • Knee joint

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