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Clin Anat. 2007 Oct;20(7):799-807.

Assessing macroscopic and microscopic indicators of osteoarthritis in the distal interphalangeal joints: a cadaveric study.

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  • 1Department of Anatomy, New York College of Osteopathic Medicine, Old Westbury, New York 11568, USA.

Abstract

Osteoarthritis is manifested both by macroscopically visible lesions and by specific histological indicators. Although traditional views of the disease process invoke physical abrasion of joint surfaces, recent studies indicate that tissue-level changes may precede grossly visible lesions of articular cartilage. This study investigates the association between gross and histological indicators of osteoarthritis at the manual interphalangeal joints, and examines a sequence of events that may lead to the onset of cartilage degeneration. Interphalangeal joints from the hands of nine cadavers were dissected, of which 52 joints were collected and further evaluated. Gross degradation of the proximal articular surface was graded on a scale of 0-3 (with 0 representing normal cartilage with no visible lesions). Osteoarthritic lesions were found in 86% of specimens and showed no preferential occurrence between males and females or right and left hands. Histological analysis indicated that known microscopic indicators of osteoarthritis always occur in Grade 1-3 specimens, but can also be recognized in some macroscopically normal specimens. Many macroscopically normal specimens exhibited chondrocyte clustering (28.6%) and/or tide mark irregularities (57%), indicating that these features are most likely the earliest to develop in the progression of osteoarthritis. It is possible that the initiating etiology is thickening of the subchondral bone, but this was not directly observed. Results indicate significant thinning of the cartilage as macroscopic degradation progresses. Our study supports, with slight modification, a previously proposed cascade of histological changes that may ultimately lead to the physical destruction of articular cartilage.

PMID:
17583582
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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