Even with current treatments of acute joint injuries, more than 40% of people who suffer significant ligament or meniscus tears, or articular surface injuries, will develop osteoarthritis (OA). Correspondingly, 12% or more of all patients with lower extremity OA have a history of joint injury. Recent research suggests that acute joint damage that occurs at the time of an injury initiates a sequence of events that can lead to progressive articular surface damage. New molecular interventions, combined with evolving surgical methods, aim to minimize or prevent progressive tissue damage triggered by joint injury. Seizing the potential for progress in the treatment of joint injuries to forestall OA will depend on advances in (1) quantitative methods of assessing the injury severity, including both structural damage and biologic responses, (2) understanding of the pathogenesis of post-traumatic OA, taking into account potential interactions among the different tissues and the role of post-traumatic incongruity and instability, and (3) application of engineering and molecular research to develop new methods of treating injured joints. This paper highlights recent advances in understanding of the structural damage and the acute biological response following joint injury, and it identifies important directions for future research.
Copyright © 2011 Orthopaedic Research Society.