OBJECTIVES: During open orthopaedic surgery, joints may be exposed to air, potentially leading to cartilage drying and chondrocyte death, however, the long-term effects of joint drying in vivo are poorly understood. We used an animal model to investigate the subsequent effects of joint drying on cartilage and chondrocytes.
METHODS: The patellar groove of anaesthetised rats was exposed (sham-operated), or exposed and then subjected to laminar airflow (0.25m/s; 60 minutes) before wounds were sutured and animals recovered. Animals were monitored for up to eight weeks and then sacrificed. Cartilage and chondrocyte properties were studied by histology and confocal microscopy, respectively.
RESULTS: Joint drying caused extensive chondrocyte death within the superficial regions of cartilage. Histology of dried cartilage demonstrated a loss of surface integrity at four weeks, fibrillations at eight weeks, and an increased modified Mankin score (p < 0.001). Cartilage thickness increased (p < 0.001), whereas chondrocyte density decreased at four weeks (p < 0.001), but then increased towards sham-operated levels (p < 0.01) at eight weeks. By week eight, chondrocyte pairing/clustering and cell volume increased (p < 0.05; p < 0.001, respectively).
CONCLUSIONS: These in vivo results demonstrated for the first time that as a result of laminar airflow, cartilage degeneration occurred which has characteristics similar to those seen in early osteoarthritis. Maintenance of adequate cartilage hydration during open orthopaedic surgery is therefore of paramount importance.
- Orthopaedic surgery