The influence of weight-bearing exercise on articular cartilage of meniscectomized joints. An experimental study in sheep

Clin Orthop Relat Res. 1990 Mar;(252):101-13.


Unilateral medial meniscectomy was undertaken in 29 purebred adult merino sheep. Arthrotomy (without meniscectomy) was conducted in 11 animals, and six were used as nonoperated controls. All animals were followed with either three- or six-month active or passive postoperative management. Active animals traversed a total of 360 km after three months and 1040 km after six months. The passive group was housed in pens allowing limited weight-bearing exercise. After death, morphologic changes were recorded and cartilages from the medial and lateral joint regions were examined for water, collagen, and proteoglycan (as hexuronate) content. Proteoglycan aggregation and extractability under nondissociative (0.4 molar GuHCl) and dissociative (4.0 molar GuHCl) conditions were also determined. The collagen content of the medial cartilage of the passively maintained meniscectomized animals was reduced, relative to external controls. Although proteoglycan content was elevated in medial cartilage of the passive group three months postoperatively, these levels returned to the control range after six months. However, low-salt (0.4 molar GuHCl) extractability of proteoglycans still remained high. All cartilages of control and meniscectomized joints showed an elevation of proteoglycan content in the active groups three months postoperatively. The cartilages in the medial region of meniscectomized animals showed the largest increase, but these levels declined after six months. Proteoglycan aggregation and water content were still elevated relative to controls six months postoperatively. The collagen levels in the three-month or six-month actively maintained meniscectomized group were not distinguishable from control values. Morphologically, joints of the passively and actively maintained animals showed focal surface fibrillation and erosions. However, in the active group, osteophytes were common and well developed six months postoperatively. These studies indicate that, while weight-bearing exercise after meniscectomy appears to be beneficial to the quality of the cartilaginous matrix, it is also accompanied by osteophytosis and cartilage hyperplasia.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cartilage, Articular / analysis*
  • Cartilage, Articular / pathology
  • Collagen / analysis
  • Exostoses / pathology
  • Menisci, Tibial / surgery*
  • Physical Conditioning, Animal*
  • Postoperative Period
  • Proteoglycans / analysis
  • Sheep
  • Water / analysis


  • Proteoglycans
  • Water
  • Collagen