3D Human cartilage surface characterization by optical coherence tomography
Early diagnosis and treatment of cartilage degeneration is of high clinical interest. Loss of surface integrity is considered one of the earliest and most reliable signs of degeneration, but cannot currently be evaluated objectively. Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT) is an arthroscopically available light-based non-destructive real-time imaging technology that allows imaging at micrometre resolutions to millimetre depths. As OCT-based surface evaluation standards remain to be defined, the present study investigated the diagnostic potential of 3D surface profile parameters in the comprehensive evaluation of cartilage degeneration. To this end, 45 cartilage samples of different degenerative grades were obtained from total knee replacements (2 males, 10 females; mean age 63.8 years), cut to standard size and imaged using a spectral-domain OCT device (Thorlabs, Germany). 3D OCT datasets of 8×8, 4×4 and 1×1 mm (width×length) were obtained and pre-processed (image adjustments, morphological filtering). Subsequent automated surface identification algorithms were used to obtain the 3D primary profiles, which were then filtered and processed using established algorithms employing ISO standards. The 3D surface profile thus obtained was used to calculate a set of 21 3D surface profile parameters, i.e. height (e.g. Sa), functional (e.g. Sk), hybrid (e.g. Sdq) and segmentation-related parameters (e.g. Spd). Samples underwent reference histological assessment according to the Degenerative Joint Disease classification. Statistical analyses included calculation of Spearman's rho and assessment of inter-group differences using the Kruskal Wallis test. Overall, the majority of 3D surface profile parameters revealed significant degeneration-dependent differences and correlations with the exception of severe end-stage degeneration and were of distinct diagnostic value in the assessment of surface integrity. None of the 3D surface profile parameters investigated were capable of reliably differentiating healthy from early-degenerative cartilage, while scan area sizes considerably affected parameter values. In conclusion, cartilage surface integrity may be adequately assessed by 3D surface profile parameters, which should be used in combination for the comprehensive and thorough evaluation and overall improved diagnostic performance. OCT- and image-based surface assessment could become a valuable adjunct tool to standard arthroscopy.