In-laboratory diffraction-enhanced X-ray imaging for articular cartilage



The loss of articular cartilage characteristic of osteoarthritis can only be diagnosed by joint space narrowing when conventional radiography is used. This is due to the lack of X-ray contrast of soft tissues. Whereas conventional radiography harnesses the X-ray attenuation properties of tissues, Diffraction Enhanced Imaging (DEI), a novel radiographic technique, allows the visualization of soft tissues simultaneous with calcified tissues by virtue of its ability to not only harness X-ray attenuation but also the X-ray refraction from tissue boundaries. Previously, DEI was dependent upon synchrotron X-rays, but more recently, the development of nonsynchrotron DEI units has been explored. These developments serve to elaborate the full potential of radiography. Here, we tested the potential of an in-laboratory DEI system, called Diffraction-Enhanced X-ray Imaging (DEXI), to render images of articular cartilage displaying varying degrees of degradation, ex vivo. DEXI allowed visualization of even early stages of cartilage degeneration such as surface fibrillation. This may be of eventual clinical significance for the diagnosis of early stages of degeneration, or at the very least, to visualize soft tissue degeneration simultaneous with bone changes. Clin. Anat. 23:530–538, 2010. © 2010 Wiley-Liss, Inc.