The application of He-Ne laser technologies for description of articular cartilage degeneration, one of the most common diseases worldwide, is an innovative usage of these technologies used primarily in material engineering. Plain radiography and magnetic resonance imaging are insufficient to allow the early assessment of the disease. As surface roughness of articular cartilage is an important indicator of articular cartilage degeneration progress, a safe and noncontact technique based on laser speckle image to estimate the surface roughness is provided. This speckle image from the articular cartilage surface, when illuminated by laser beam, gives very important information about the physical properties of the surface. An experimental setup using a low power He-Ne laser and a high-resolution digital camera was implemented to obtain speckle images of ten bovine articular cartilage specimens prepared for different average roughness values. Texture analysis method based on gray-level co-occurrence matrix (GLCM) analyzed on the captured speckle images is used to characterize the surface roughness of the specimens depending on the computation of Haralick’s texture features. In conclusion, this promising method can accurately estimate the surface roughness of articular cartilage even for early signs of degeneration. The method is effective for estimation of average surface roughness values ranging from 0.09 µm to 2.51 µm with an accuracy of 0.03 µm.
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