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J Bone Joint Surg Br. 2006 Nov;88(11):1528-32.

Periodic rewetting enhances the viability of chondrocytes in human articular cartilage exposed to air.

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  • 1University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine, CA 94143, USA.


Desiccation of articular cartilage during surgery is often unavoidable and may result in the death of chondrocytes, with subsequent joint degeneration. This study was undertaken to determine the extent of chondrocyte death caused by exposure to air and to ascertain whether regular rewetting of cartilage could decrease cell death. Macroscopically normal human cartilage was exposed to air for 0, 30, 60 or 120 minutes. Selected samples were wetted in lactated Ringer's solution for ten seconds every ten or 20 minutes. The viability of chondrocytes was measured after three days by Live/Dead staining. Chondrocyte death correlated with the length of exposure to air and the depth of the cartilage. Drying for 120 minutes caused extensive cell death mainly in the superficial 500 microm of cartilage. Rewetting every ten or 20 minutes significantly decreased cell death. The superficial zone is most susceptible to desiccation. Loss of superficial chondrocytes likely decreases the production of essential lubricating glycoproteins and contributes to subsequent degeneration. Frequent wetting of cartilage during arthrotomy is therefore essential.

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