Background: The purpose of this study was to compare the outcomes of treatment with bone marrow aspirate concentrate, a simple, one-step, autogenous, and arthroscopically applicable method, with the outcomes of microfracture with regard to the repair of full-thickness cartilage defects in an equine model.
Methods: Extensive (15-mm-diameter) full-thickness cartilage defects were created on the lateral trochlear ridge of the femur in twelve horses. Bone marrow was aspirated from the sternum and centrifuged to generate the bone marrow concentrate. The defects were treated with bone marrow concentrate and microfracture or with microfracture alone. Second-look arthroscopy was performed at three months, and the horses were killed at eight months. Repair was assessed with use of macroscopic and histological scoring systems as well as with quantitative magnetic resonance imaging.
Results: No adverse reactions due to the microfracture or the bone marrow concentrate were observed. At eight months, macroscopic scores (mean and standard error of the mean, 9.4 + or - 1.2 compared with 4.4 + or - 1.2; p = 0.009) and histological scores (11.1 + or - 1.6 compared with 6.4 + or - 1.2; p = 0.02) indicated improvement in the repair tissue in the bone marrow concentrate group compared with that in the microfracture group. All scoring systems and magnetic resonance imaging data indicated that delivery of the bone marrow concentrate resulted in increased fill of the defects and improved integration of repair tissue into surrounding normal cartilage. In addition, there was greater type-II collagen content and improved orientation of the collagen as well as significantly more glycosaminoglycan in the bone marrow concentrate-treated defects than in the microfracture-treated defects.
Conclusions: Delivery of bone marrow concentrate can result in healing of acute full-thickness cartilage defects that is superior to that after microfracture alone in an equine model.
Clinical relevance: Delivery of bone marrow concentrate to cartilage defects has the clinical potential to improve cartilage healing, providing a simple, cost-effective, arthroscopically applicable, and clinically effective approach for cartilage repair.