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Top Magn Reson Imaging. 1999 Jun;10(3):180-92.

Importance of subchondral bone to articular cartilage in health and disease.

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  • 1Department of Osteology and MRI, Universitaets Klinik für Radiodiagnostik, AKH Vienna/Austria.


The almost absolute barrier to diffusion of nutrients between articular cartilage and subchondral bone does not exist. These anatomic regions represent a functional unit. Repetitive overloading in degenerative disease leads primarily to lesions in the subchondral region (including vessels), which in turn impede flow of nutrition to articular cartilage. As a result, in degenerative joint disease the subchondral region shows reactive enhanced vascularization and heightened metabolism with insufficient repair. In aging, however, vascularization and metabolism are decreased; no repair takes place. In many cases, MRI allows visualization of these subchondral abnormalities. It also demonstrates the basic similarities of degenerative osteoarthritis, osteochondritis dissecans, and avascular necrosis. These different entities may have the same basic etiology but with different disease severity.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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