Nat Rev Rheumatol. 2021 Nov 30. doi: 10.1038/s41584-021-00719-7. Online ahead of print.
The 3D nature and soft-tissue contrast of MRI makes it an invaluable tool for osteoarthritis research, by facilitating the elucidation of disease pathogenesis and progression. The recent increasing employment of MRI has certainly been stimulated by major advances that are due to considerable investment in research, particularly related to artificial intelligence (AI). These AI-related advances are revolutionizing the use of MRI in clinical research by augmenting activities ranging from image acquisition to post-processing. Automation is key to reducing the long acquisition times of MRI, conducting large-scale longitudinal studies and quantitatively defining morphometric and other important clinical features of both soft and hard tissues in various anatomical joints. Deep learning methods have been used recently for multiple applications in the musculoskeletal field to improve understanding of osteoarthritis. Compared with labour-intensive human efforts, AI-based methods have advantages and potential in all stages of imaging, as well as post-processing steps, including aiding diagnosis and prognosis. However, AI-based methods also have limitations, including the arguably limited interpretability of AI models. Given that the AI community is highly invested in uncovering uncertainties associated with model predictions and improving their interpretability, we envision future clinical translation and progressive increase in the use of AI algorithms to support clinicians in optimizing patient care.