Source: University of Cambridge
Summary: A team of engineers, physicians and radiologists has developed an algorithm to monitor the joints of patients with arthritis, which could change the way that the severity of the condition is assessed.
Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis in the UK. It develops when the articular cartilage that coats the ends of bones and allows them to glide smoothly over each other at joints, is worn down, resulting in painful, immobile joints. Currently, there is no recognized cure and the only definitive treatment is surgery for artificial joint replacement. Osteoarthritis is normally identified on an X-ray by a narrowing of the space between the bones of the joint due to a loss of cartilage. However, x-rays do not have enough sensitivity to detect subtle changes in the joint over time. A team of engineers, physicians and radiologists led by the University of Cambridge has developed an algorithm to monitor the joints of patients with arthritis, which could change the way that the severity of the condition is assessed. The study findings were published in the journal Scientific Reports.
The technique developed by the research team uses images from a standard computerized tomography (CT) scan, which isn’t normally used to monitor joints but produces detailed images in three dimensions. The semi-automated technique, called joint space mapping (JSM), analyses the CT images to identify changes in the space between the bones of the joint in question, a recognized surrogate marker for osteoarthritis. After developing the algorithm with tests on human hip joints from bodies that had been donated for medical research, they found that it exceeded the current ‘gold standard’ of joint imaging with X-rays in terms of sensitivity, showing that it was at least twice as good at detecting small structural changes. Colour-coded images produced using the JSM algorithm illustrate the parts of the joint where the space between bones is wider or narrower.
Lead author, Dr. Tom Turmezeis said, “Using this technique, we’ll hopefully be able to identify osteoarthritis earlier, and look at potential treatments before it becomes debilitating.”
More Information: T. D. Turmezei et al, “A new quantitative 3D approach to imaging of structural joint disease”, Scientific Reports (2018). DOI: 10.1038/s41598-018-27486-y