PURPOSE: To investigate and compare delayed gadolinium (Gd-DTPA)-enhanced magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of cartilage (dGEMRIC) in the hip joint using intravenous (i.v.) or ultrasound-guided intra-articular (i.a.) Gd-DTPA injection. MATERIAL AND METHODS: In 10 patients (50% males, mean age 58 years) with clinical and radiographic hip osteoarthritis (OA; Kellgren score II-III), MRI of the hip was performed twice on a clinical 1.5T MR scanner: On day 1, before and 90-180 min after 0.3 mmol/kg body weight i.v. Gd-DTPA and, on day 8, 90-180 min after ultrasound-guided i.a. injection of a 4 mmol/l Gd-DTPA solution. Coronal STIR, coronal T1 fat-saturated spin-echo, and a cartilage-sensitive gradient-echo sequence (3D T1 SPGR) in the sagittal plane were applied. RESULTS Both the post-i.v. and post-i.a. Gd-DTPA images showed significantly higher signal-to-noise (SNR) and contrast-to-noise (CNR) in the joint cartilage compared to the non-enhanced images (P < 0.002). I.a. Gd-DTPA provided significantly higher SNR and CNR compared to i.v. Gd-DTPA (P < 0.01). Furthermore, a better delineation of the cartilage in the synovial/cartilage zone and of the chondral/subchondral border was observed. CONCLUSION: The dGEMRIC MRI method markedly improved delineation of hip joint cartilage compared to non-enhanced MRI. The i.a. Gd-DTPA provided the best cartilage delineation. dGEMRIC is a clinically applicable MRI method that may improve identification of early subtle cartilage damage and the accuracy of volume measurements of hip joint cartilage.