Effect of elbow MRI with axial traction on articular cartilage visibility—a feasibility study

Abstract

Objective

Accurate evaluation of the articular cartilage of the elbow using MRI is sometimes challenging because of its anatomical complexity and relatively small size. Moreover, the articular cartilage of the humerus is in close contact with the opposing cartilage surfaces. Magnetic resonance arthrography with traction was reported to resolve this issue; however, less invasive methods are desirable. This study aimed to assess the effect of MRI with axial traction (without arthrography) on joint space widening and cartilage outline visibility of the elbow.

Materials and methods

We enrolled 10 volunteers (female = 1; mean age, 36.7 ± 8.6; range 28–56) and performed MRI with and without axial traction on the elbow. Joint space widths were measured, and the humeral articular cartilage outline visibility was evaluated at the radiocapitellar joint and lateral one-third and medial one-third of the ulnohumeral joints. Measurements were compared using the Wilcoxon signed-rank test. Significance was set at p < 0.05. Volunteers scored pain and discomfort during MRI with traction using the visual analog scale in a questionnaire format.

Results

Traction significantly increased joint space width at the radiocapitellar joint. Humeral articular cartilage outline visibility also significantly improved at the radiocapitellar joint. Pain and discomfort scores during traction MRI were low.

Conclusion

MRI of the elbow with traction widens joint space and enables better articular cartilage visibility at the radiocapitellar joint. Anatomical features of the elbow might have affected these results. Therefore, it would be safe and useful for evaluating elbow injuries involving articular cartilage lesions.

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Acknowledgments

We would like to thank Editage for the English language editing.

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Correspondence to Sho Kohyama.

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All procedures performed in this study were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional review board of a general hospital and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

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The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

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Kohyama, S., Tanaka, T., Shimasaki, K. et al. Effect of elbow MRI with axial traction on articular cartilage visibility—a feasibility study. Skeletal Radiol 49, 1555–1566 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00256-020-03455-3

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Keywords

  • Elbow
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
  • Traction