Objective: To evaluate the effect of osteoporosis (OP) in cartilage damage developed in an experimental model of osteoarthritis (OA) in mature female rabbits in order to investigate the relationship between OP and OA.
Methods: OA was experimentally induced by anterior cruciate section and partial medial meniscectomy in the left knee of 12 rabbits. OP was experimentally induced prior to OA in six rabbits by bilateral ovariectomy (OVX) and systemic corticosteroid administration during 4 weeks. Knees were evaluated with high resolution magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) before knee surgery to rule out any detrimental effect of corticosteroids on cartilage. Gross and microscopic cartilage changes were assessed 16 weeks after surgery in bilateral knees. Left knees were considered osteoarthritic or osteoarthritic plus osteoporotic. Right knees were used as osteoporotic and healthy controls, respectively. Bone mineral density (BMD) was measured with dual energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA) at the lumbar spine, global knee and subchondral knee bone, and its variations correlated with cartilage abnormalities.
Results: MRI before knee surgery disclosed no cartilage or bone abnormalities in any of the studied groups. OP increased the severity of cartilage abnormalities in experimental knee OA significantly (P<0.05). Cartilage damage was inversely correlated with BMD variations measured at the lumbar spine (r=-0.74; P=0.015). BMD changes in global and subchondral knee bone also showed a trend to correlate inversely with cartilage damage.
Conclusions: Prior induction of OP increases the severity of cartilage damage in experimental OA. Increase in cartilage damage correlates with bone loss. These findings suggest a direct relationship between OP and OA.