Quantitative articular cartilage sub-surface defect assessment using optical coherence tomography
An in-vitro study
Assessment of structural cartilage damage is of high scientific and clinical interest. Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT) is a light-based cross-sectional imaging modality that allows the real-time assessment of articular cartilage at near-histological resolution. Algorithm routines for the detection, parameterization and quantification of sub-surface defects as assessed by OCT were implemented and validated in this study. Standard defects of 0.9 mm, 1.1 mm and 1.3 mm diameter were created in the sub-surface regions of macroscopically intact human articular cartilage samples (n = 60 defects of variable sizes in n = 20 samples). Subsequently, samples were scanned by 3D OCT and defect size, height, width and distance to the surface were determined based on the algorithm and related to manual measurements. Histology served as the standard-of-reference. Statistical analysis included one-way ANOVA's and Tukey's post-hoc test. All defects were correctly identified by the algorithm, while five structural tissue inhomogeneities were erroneously marked as defects (sensitivity 100%, specificity: 92.3%). Inter-modality analysis revealed no significant differences in terms of defect area, height or width within the different defect sizes, while the distance to the surface was significantly different. The comprehensive algorithm-based characterization of cartilage defects is consistent and reliable and allows their more objective evaluation. Given further research in this field, OCT and OCT-based quantitative measures may become clinically useful in the arthroscopic detection and evaluation of sub-surface cartilage defects.