We propose a modification of the Aisen's technique by which precise reproducible measurements of articular cartilage thickness of the knee is possible. A group of 23 patients with severe osteoarthritis was studied by ultra-sound (US) before knee prosthesis surgery. Evaluation with US was performed by a real-time scanner with a 7.5 MHz linear probe with upper-patellar transverse scans tangent to the upper patellar pole at 90 degrees knee flexion. The cartilage thickness was measured within the weight-bearing area. After surgery, on the corresponding gross pathological specimen, US re-evaluation and histological measurements were made. Results of pre- and post-operative ultrasonography (US) data were compared with histological data and a good correlation between these measurements was found (p(t) > 10%). Preoperative measurements ranged from 2.4 to 0.3 mm. In order to obtain normal reference values of the articular cartilage within the weight-bearing area of the femoral trochlea for comparison, a group of 10 control subjects was also studied with US as above. The US data were then compared with computed tomography (arthro-CT) evaluations. No significant differences in mean values were found between the two imaging techniques (2.2 mm versus 2.3 mm for the lateral condyle and 2.3 versus 2.3 for the medial condyle, respectively). We conclude that ultra-sound measurement of articular cartilage thickness of femoral condyles is a sensitive and reproducible technique which permits early diagnosis and management of knee arthropathy and also quantification of cartilage damage.
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