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Clin Orthop Relat Res. 2005 Jan;(430):202-7.

Articular cartilage adjacent to experimental defects is subject to atypical strains.

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  • 1Department of Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195, USA.


We tested the hypothesis that articular cartilage adjacent to experimental osteochondral defects is not subject to unusual strains under load. A 2.5-mm drill hole was made in the medial femoral condyle of 15 knees from 10 adult rabbits. Experimental joints were loaded with simulated quadriceps force, then frozen under load and preserved by freeze-substitution fixation. Deformation in the region of the defect was evaluated by scanning electron and light microscopy and compared with nondrilled and nonloaded control knees. To simulate blood clot, alginate was placed into some defects before loading. In loaded knees, articular cartilage at the edge of the drill hole was abnormally flattened and folded into the defect. Opposing tibial cartilage or meniscus intruded into the femoral defect beyond the cement line. Alginate did not prevent incursion of opposing cartilage. In this standard drill-hole model, the articular cartilage defect is occupied by the opposing surface when a joint is loaded. Any tissue growing or surgically implanted in the defect is subject to loading and displacement, therefore complicating attempts to characterize the healing or regenerative potential in similar drill-hole models. Deformation of cartilage at the defect edge suggests load concentration or increased compliance. Either phenomenon would contribute to subsequent degeneration of the cartilage adjacent to defects.

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