Objective: From a clinical point of view, joint distraction as a treatment for osteoarthritis (OA) of hip and ankle has been demonstrated to be very promising. Pain, joint mobility and functional ability, the most important factors for a patient with severe OA, all improved. Although radiographic joint space enlargement in a significant number of patients suggested cartilage repair, actual cartilage repair remains difficult to evaluate. Therefore the present study was initiated to evaluate the actual effects of joint distraction on cartilage.
Methods: For this purpose a canine model for OA, anterior cruciate ligament transection (ACLT) was used. Sixteen weeks after ACLT articulating Ilizarov joint distraction of the knee was carried out. Absence of mechanical contact between articular surfaces and presence of intra-articular intermittent fluid pressure, characteristics of Ilizarov joint distraction, were confirmed. Twenty-five weeks after ACLT joint tissue of the dogs was analyzed.
Results: Biochemical analysis showed that after joint distraction the abnormal cartilage proteoglycan (PG) metabolism, characteristic for OA, had changed to a level found in control joints. Moreover, a mild degree of inflammation, present after ACLT, was reduced upon joint distraction. PG-content and histological cartilage degeneration had not (yet) improved within the time of treatment.
Discussion: Results suggest that the promising clinical results of Ilizarov joint distraction in patients with OA are accompanied by changes in cartilage metabolism. A change in proteoglycan turnover, indicating normalization of overall chondrocyte function, might in the long term, with normal joint use, lead to actual repair of cartilage.
Copyright 2000 OsteoArthritis Research Society International.