Spectroscopic Photoacoustic Imaging of Cartilage Damage

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OBJECTIVE: Osteoarthritis (OA) is a chronic joint disease characterized by progressive degradation of cartilage. It affects more than 10% of the people aged over 60 years-old worldwide with a rising prevalence due to the increasingly aging population. OA is a major source of pain, disability, and socioeconomic cost. Currently, the lack of effective diagnosis and affordable imaging options for early detection and monitoring of OA presents the clinic with many challenges. Spectroscopic Photoacoustic (sPA) imaging has the potential to reveal changes in cartilage composition with different degrees of damage, based on optical absorption contrast.

DESIGN: In this study, the capabilities of sPA imaging and its potential to characterize cartilage damage were explored. To this end, 15 pieces of cartilage samples from patients undergoing a total joint replacement were collected and were imaged ex vivo with sPA imaging at a wide optical spectral range (between 500 nm and 1300 nm) to investigate the photoacoustic properties of cartilage tissue. All the PA spectra of the cartilage samples were analyzed and compared to the corresponding histological results.

RESULTS: The collagen related PA spectral changes were clearly visible in our imaging data and were related to different degrees of cartilage damage. The results are in good agreement with histology and the current gold standard, i.e., the Mankin score.

CONCLUSIONS: This study demonstrates the potential and possible clinical application of sPA imaging in OA.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1071-1080
Number of pages10
JournalOsteoarthritis and Cartilage
Issue number7
Early online date10 Apr 2021
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2021

Bibliographical note

Copyright © 2021. Published by Elsevier Ltd.


  • Articular cartilage damage
  • Cartilage spectra
  • Collagen degradation
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Photoacoustic imaging
  • Ultrasound imaging


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