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J Orthop Res. 2008 May;26(5):631-42. doi: 10.1002/jor.20530.

Cartilage repair with osteochondral autografts in sheep: effect of biophysical stimulation with pulsed electromagnetic fields.

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Orthopaedic and Traumatologic Clinic, University of Pavia, IRCCS Policlinico S. Matteo, Pavia, Italy.


The effect of pulsed electromagnetic fields (PEMFs) on the integration of osteochondral autografts was evaluated in sheep. After osteochondral grafts were performed, the animals were treated with PEMFs for 6 h/day or sham-treated. Six animals were sacrificed at 1 month. Fourteen animals were treated for 2 months and sacrificed at 6 months. At 1 month, the osteogenic activity at the transplant-host subchondral bone interface was increased in PEMF-treated animals compared to controls. Articular cartilage was healthy in controls and stimulated animals. At 6 months, complete resorption was observed in four control grafts only. Cyst-like resorption areas were more frequent within the graft of sham-treated animals versus PEMF-treated. The average volume of the cysts was not significantly different between the two groups; nevertheless, analysis of the variance of the volumes demonstrated a significant difference. The histological score showed no significant differences between controls and stimulated animals, but the percentage of surface covered by fibrous tissue was higher in the control group than in the stimulated one. Interleukin-1 and tumor necrosis factor-alpha concentration in the synovial fluid was significantly lower, and transforming growth factor-beta1 was significantly higher, in PEMF-treated animals compared to controls. One month after osteochondral graft implantation, we observed larger bone formation in PEMF-treated grafts which favors early graft stabilization. In the long term, PEMF exposure limited the bone resorption in subchondral bone; furthermore, the cytokine profile in the synovial fluid was indicative of a more favorable articular environment for the graft.

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