Spontaneous repair of full-thickness defects of articular cartilage in a goat model. A preliminary study.J Bone Joint Surg Am. 2001 Jan; 83(1):53-64.JB
Full-thickness defects measuring 3 mm in diameter have been commonly used in studies of rabbits to evaluate new procedures designed to improve the quality of articular cartilage repair. These defects initially heal spontaneously. However, little information is available on the characteristics of repair of larger defects. The objective of the present study was to define the characteristics of repair of 6-mm full-thickness osteochondral defects in the adult Spanish goat.
Full-thickness osteochondral defects measuring 6 x 6 mm were created in the medial femoral condyle of the knee joint of adult female Spanish goats. The untreated defects were allowed to heal spontaneously. The knee joints were removed, and the defects were examined at ten time-intervals, ranging from time zero (immediately after creation of the defect) to one year postoperatively. The defects were examined grossly, microradiographically, histologically, and with magnetic resonance imaging and computed tomography.
The 6-mm osteochondral defects did not heal. Moreover, heretofore undescribed progressive, deleterious changes occurred in the osseous walls of the defect and the articular cartilage surrounding the defect. These changes resulted in a progressive increase in the size of the defect, the formation of a large cavitary lesion, and the collapse of both the surrounding subchondral bone and the articular cartilage into the periphery of the defect. Resorption of the osseous walls of the defect was first noted by one week, and it was associated with extensive osteoclastic activity in the trabecular bone of the walls of the defect. Flattening and deformation of the articular cartilage at the edges of the defect was also observed at this time. By twelve weeks, bone resorption had transformed the surgically created defect into a larger cavitary lesion, and the articular cartilage and subchondral bone surrounding the defect had collapsed into the periphery of the defect. By twenty-six weeks, bone resorption had ceased and the osseous walls of the lesion had become sclerotic. The cavitary lesion did not become filled in with fibrocartilage. Instead, a cystic lesion was found in the center of most of the cavitary lesions. Only a thin layer of fibrocartilage was present on the sclerotic osseous walls of the defect. Specimens examined at one year postoperatively showed similar characteristics.
Full-thickness osteochondral defects, measuring 6 mm in both diameter and depth, that are created in the medial femoral condyle of the knee joint of adult Spanish goats do not heal spontaneously. Instead, they undergo progressive changes resulting in resorption of the osseous walls of the defect, the formation of a large cavitary lesion, and the collapse of the surrounding articular cartilage and subchondral bone.
As surgeons apply new reparative procedures to larger areas of full-thickness articular cartilage loss, we believe that it is important to consider the potential deleterious effects of a "zone of influence" secondary to the creation of a large defect in the subchondral bone. When biologic and synthetic matrices with or without cells or bioactive factors are placed into surgically created osseous defects, the osseous walls serve as shoulders to protect and stabilize the preliminary repair process. It is important to protect the repair process until biologic incorporation occurs and the chondrogenic switch turns the cells on to synthesize an articular-cartilage-like matrix. It takes a varying period of time to fill a large, surgically created bone defect underlying a chondral surface. The repair of such a defect requires bone synthesis and the reestablishment of a subchondral plate with a tidemark transition to the new overlying articular surface. The prevention of secondary changes in the surrounding bone and articular cartilage and the durability of the new reparative tissue making up the articulating surface are issues that must be addressed in future studies.