Int J Sports Med 2000; 21(1): 76-81
DOI: 10.1055/s-2000-8860
Orthopedics and Clinical Science
Georg Thieme Verlag Stuttgart ·New York

Incomplete Restoration of Immobilization Induced Softening of Young Beagle Knee Articular Cartilage After 50-Week Remobilization

 J. Haapala,  J. Arokoski,  J. Pirttimäki,  T. Lyyra,  J. Jurvelin,  M. Tammi,  H. J. Helminen,  I. Kiviranta
  • Departments of Surgery and Anatomy, University of Kuopio, Kuopio, Finland
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Publication History

Publication Date:
31 December 2000 (online)

The aim of this study was to characterize the biomechanical and structural changes in canine knee cartilage after an initial 11-week immobilization and subsequent remobilization period of 50 weeks. Cartilage from the immobilized and remobilized knee was compared with the tissue from age-matched control animals. Compressive stiffness, in the form of instant shear modulus (ISM) and equilibrium shear modulus (ESM) of articular cartilage, was investigated using an in situ indentation creep technique. The local variations in cartilage of glycosaminoglycan (GAG) concentration were measured with a microspectrophotometer after safranin O staining of histological sections. Using a computer-based quantitative polarized light microscopy method, collagen-related optical retardation, Γ, of cartilage zones were performed to investigate the collagen network of cartilage. Macroscopically, cartilage surfaces of the knee joint remained intact both after immobilization and remobilization periods. Immobilization caused significant softening of the lateral femoral and tibial cartilages, as expressed by ESM (up to 30 %, p < 0.05). Remobilization restored the biomechanical properties of cartilage in the lateral condyle of tibia, but in the lateral condyle of femur ESM remained 15 % below the control level (p = 0.05). The instant shear modulus was not changed either after immobilization or remobilization. The GAG content of the cartilage was slightly decreased after immobilization, especially in the superficial zone of cartilage, but the change was not statistically significant. After remobilization the intensity of safranin O content rose to control level. Neither immobilization nor remobilization had any effect on the Γ value of collagen fibril network either in the superficial or the deep zone at any of the test points. The changes of ESM were positively correlated with the alterations in GAG content of the superficial and deep zones after immobilization and remobilization. This confirms the key role of protoglycans in the regulation of the equilibrium stiffness of articular cartilage. As a conclusion, immobilization of the joint of a young individual may cause long-term, if not permanent, alterations of cartilage biomechanical properties. This may predispose joint to degenerative changes later in life.

References

M.D. Jussi Haapala

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