Laser ablation inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (LA-ICP-MS) is an emerging analytical technique in the generation of quantitative images of MR contrast agent distribution in thin tissue sections of articular cartilage. An analytical protocol is described that includes sample preparation by cryo-cutting of tissue sections, mass spectrometric measurements by LA-ICP-MS and quantification of gadolinium images by one-point calibration, standard addition method (employing matrix-matched laboratory standards) and isotope dilution analysis using highly enriched stable Gd-155 isotope (abundance 92 vs 14.8% in the [Gd(DTPA)]2− contrast agent). The tissue contrast agent concentrations of [Gd(DTPA)]2− in cartilage measured in this work are in agreement with findings obtained by magnetic resonance imaging and other analytical methodologies. The LA-ICP-MS imaging data also confirm the observation that the spatial distribution of [Gd(DTPA)]2− in the near-equilibrium state is highly inhomogeneous across cartilage thickness with the highest concentration measured in superficial cartilage and a strong decrease toward the subchondral bone. In the present work, it is shown for the first time that LA-ICP-MS can be applied to validate the results from quantitative gadolinium-enhanced MRI technique of articular cartilage. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.