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Invest Radiol. 2000 Oct;35(10):581-8.

Subchondral bone and cartilage disease: a rediscovered functional unit.

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Osteologie, Univ. Klinik für Radiodiagnostik, AKH-Vienna, Austria.


The role of subchondral bone in the pathogenesis of cartilage damage has likely been underestimated. Subchondral bone is not only an important shock absorber, but it may also be important for cartilage metabolism. Contrary to many drawings and published reports, the subchondral region is highly vascularized and vulnerable. Its terminal vessels have, in part, direct contact with the deepest hyaline cartilage layer. The perfusion of these vessels accounts for more than 50% of the glucose, oxygen, and water requirements of cartilage. Bony structure, local metabolism, hemodynamics, and vascularization of the subchondral region differ within a single joint and from one joint to another. Owing to these differences, repetitive, chronic overloading or perfusion abnormalities may result in no pathological reaction at all in one joint, while in another joint, these same conditions may lead to osteonecrosis, osteochondritis dissecans, or degenerative changes. According to this common etiological root, similar pathological reactions beginning with marrow edema and necrosis and followed by bone and cartilage fractures, joint deformity, and insufficient healing processes are found in osteonecrosis, osteochondritis dissecans, and degenerative disease as well.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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