Effect of intra-articular local anesthesia on articular cartilage in the knee

Arthroscopy. 2014 May;30(5):607-12. doi: 10.1016/j.arthro.2014.02.002.


Purpose: To evaluate the hypothetical toxic effect of local anesthetics on the articular cartilage using patient data from autologous chondrocyte cultivation with different anesthesia types used for arthroscopic cartilage biopsy specimen procurement.

Methods: A retrospective analysis of patient data from the national autologous chondrocyte implantation registry and the corresponding hospital records was approved by the National Medical Ethics Committee. Articular cartilage biopsy specimens from the knees of 49 consecutive patients assigned for autologous chondrocyte implantation (aged 14 to 44 years) were procured from the non-weight-bearing articular surface during arthroscopy under general anesthesia (12 patients), spinal anesthesia (18 patients), or local anesthesia (intra-articular injection of 15 to 20 mL of 2% lidocaine hydrochloride) (19 patients). All the biopsy specimens were further manipulated following the same chondrocyte cultivation protocol. General patient data and surgery-related parameters, together with chondrocyte viability, population doublings, and chondrocyte morphology in biopsy specimens and primary cell cultures, were analyzed and compared across different types of anesthesia.

Results: Patients in the general, spinal, and local anesthesia groups showed no statistical differences in age (27 years, 29 years, and 32 years, respectively), duration of surgery (36 minutes, 37 minutes, and 39 minutes, respectively), weight of biopsy specimens (110 mg, 178 mg, and 130 mg, respectively), cell viability in cartilage biopsy specimens (67%, 69%, and 78%, respectively) or primary cultures (95%, 95%, and 95%, respectively), and population doublings (5.2, 5.2, and 5.2, respectively). Similar chondrocyte morphology in primary cell cultures was observed among the 3 groups.

Conclusions: This retrospective study showed that a single intra-articular injection of lidocaine hydrochloride used for knee arthroscopy did not influence the viability, morphology, and cultivation potential of chondrocytes in articular cartilage biopsy specimens assigned for autologous chondrocyte implantation.

Level of evidence: Level IV, retrospective comparative study.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Anesthesia, Local / adverse effects
  • Anesthetics, Local / administration & dosage
  • Anesthetics, Local / adverse effects*
  • Arthroscopy / methods*
  • Biopsy
  • Cartilage, Articular / drug effects*
  • Cartilage, Articular / pathology
  • Cartilage, Articular / surgery
  • Cell Survival / drug effects
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Chondrocytes / drug effects*
  • Chondrocytes / pathology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Injections, Intra-Articular
  • Knee Injuries / pathology
  • Knee Injuries / surgery
  • Knee Joint / surgery*
  • Lidocaine / administration & dosage
  • Lidocaine / adverse effects*
  • Male
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Young Adult


  • Anesthetics, Local
  • Lidocaine