The purpose of this study was to compare the effects of estrogen deficiency and bone mass loss on normal knee cartilage in mature rabbits. Bilateral ovariectomy (OVX) was performed in 13 rabbits, 6 of which also received systemic glucocorticoid for 4 weeks. Seven additional healthy rabbits were used as controls. Bone mineral density (BMD) was measured by dual X-ray absorptiometry in lumbar spine, knee, and subchondral bone of the knee at baseline and 22 weeks after OVX. After sacrifice, the knees were dissected, macroscopy was assessed, and histological cartilage abnormalities were evaluated according to the Mankin score. Correlations of Mankin with BMD at different regions were also performed. When compared to baseline, differences in BMD were only found in spine and knee of the animals receiving glucocorticoids. All the animals subjected to OVX had a significantly higher Mankin score than controls. Mankin was upper in OVX animals receiving glucocorticoids, but differences were not significant. The Mankin score was inversely related with BMD in lumbar spine (r = -0.67; p < 0.01). Although low bone mineral density contributes to the minor osteoarthritic alterations observed in our model, estrogen deficiency itself seems to act directly to induce the main pathogenic effects in healthy cartilage of the rabbit.
(c) 2010 Orthopaedic Research Society. Published by Wiley Periodicals, Inc.