Marrow stimulation improves meniscal healing at early endpoints in a rabbit meniscal injury model

Arthroscopy. 2013 Jan;29(1):113-21. doi: 10.1016/j.arthro.2012.06.023. Epub 2012 Nov 30.


Purpose: To critically evaluate the effect of marrow stimulation (MS) on the extent of healing and the local biological environment after meniscal injury in ligamentously stable knees in a rabbit model.

Methods: A reproducible 1.5-mm cylindrical defect was created in the avascular portion of the anterior horn of the medial meniscus bilaterally in 18 New Zealand White rabbits (36 knees). In right knees (MS knees), a 2.4-mm Steinman pin was drilled into the apex of the femoral intercondylar notch and marrow contents were observed spilling into the joint. Left knees served as controls. Rabbits were killed in 3 groups (n = 6 rabbits each) at 1, 4, and 12 weeks with meniscal harvest and blinded histomorphometric and histologic evaluation using an established 3-component tissue quality score (range, 0 to 6). One-week specimens were also evaluated for the presence of proregenerative cytokines using immunohistochemistry.

Results: The mean proportion of the avascular zone defect bridged by reparative tissue was greater in MS knees than in controls at each endpoint (1 week, 55% v 30%, P = .02; 4 weeks, 71% v 53%, P = .047; 12 weeks, 96% v 77%, P = .16). Similarly, there was a consistent trend toward superior tissue quality scores in knees treated with MS compared with controls (1 week, 1.8 v 0.3, P = .03; 4 weeks, 4.3 v 2.8, P = .08; 12 weeks, 5.9 v 4.5, P = .21). No statistically significant differences, however, were observed at the 12-week endpoint. Increased staining for insulin-like growth factor I, transforming growth factor-β, and platelet-derived growth factor was observed in regenerated tissue, compared with native meniscal tissue, in all specimens at 1 week. Staining density for all growth factors was similar, however, in reparative tissue of MS and control knees.

Conclusions: The results of this study suggest that marrow stimulation leads to modest improvements in quality and quantity of reparative tissue bridging a meniscal defect, particularly during the early recovery period.

Clinical relevance: Clinical evaluation of marrow stimulation techniques designed to enhance healing in isolated meniscus repair surgery may be indicated.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Arthroplasty, Subchondral*
  • Bone Marrow / physiology*
  • Chondrocytes / physiology
  • Cytokines / analysis
  • Female
  • Fibroblasts / physiology
  • Intercellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins / analysis
  • Menisci, Tibial / chemistry
  • Menisci, Tibial / pathology
  • Menisci, Tibial / surgery*
  • Models, Animal
  • Rabbits
  • Regeneration
  • Single-Blind Method
  • Staining and Labeling
  • Tibial Meniscus Injuries
  • Time Factors
  • Wound Healing / physiology*


  • Cytokines
  • Intercellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins