Achilles tendon assessment on quantitative MRI: Sources of variability and relationships to tendinopathy

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Quantitative MRI (qMRI) measures are useful in assessing musculoskeletal tissues, but application to tendon has been limited. The purposes of this study were to optimize, identify sources of variability, and establish reproducibility of qMRI to assess Achilles tendon. Additionally, preliminarily estimates of effect of tendon pathology on qMRI metrics and structure–function relationships between qMRI measures and ankle performance were examined. T1, T1ρ, T2, and T2* maps of the Achilles tendon were obtained using a 3T MRI scanner. In participants with asymptomatic tendons (n = 21), MRI procedures were repeated twice, and region of interest selection was performed by three raters. Variance decomposition and reproducibility statistics were completed. To estimate the effect of pathology, qMRI measures from individuals with asymptomatic tendons were compared to qMRI measures from a pilot group of individuals with Achilles tendinopathy (n = 7). Relationships between qMRI and ankle performance measures were assessed. Between-participant variation accounted for the majority of variability (46.7%–64.0%) in all qMRI measures except T2*. ICCs met or exceeded 0.7 for all qMRI measures when averaged across raters or scans. Relaxation times were significantly longer in tendinopathic tendons (mean (SD) T1: 977.8 (208.6) ms, T1ρ: 35.4 (7.1) ms, T2: 42.8 (7.9) ms, T2*: 14.1 (7.6) ms, n = 7) compared to asymptomatic control tendons (T1: 691.7 (32.4) ms, T1ρ: 24.0 (3.6) ms, T2: 24.4 (7.5) ms, T2*: 9.5 (3.4) ms, n = 21) (p < 0.011 for all comparisons). T1 related to functional performance measures in symptomatic and asymptomatic groups. Study findings suggest that qMRI is reliable to assess the Achilles tendon. qMRI quantitatively assesses the presence of tendon pathology and relates to functional performance outcomes, supporting the utility of incorporating qMRI in research and clinic.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere14650
JournalScandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2024


  • ankle
  • foot
  • quantitative magnetic resonance imaging
  • reproducibility
  • tendon


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