Objective: Knee osteoarthritis (OA) is a degenerative joint disorder characterized by cartilage, bone, and synovial tissue changes that lead to pain and functional impairment. Joint distraction is a treatment that provides long-term improvement in pain and function accompanied by cartilage repair, as evaluated indirectly by imaging studies and measurement of biochemical markers. The purpose of this study was to evaluate cartilage tissue repair directly by histologic and biochemical assessments after joint distraction treatment.
Methods: In 27 dogs, OA was induced in the right knee joint (groove model; surgical damage to the femoral cartilage). After 10 weeks of OA development, the animals were randomized to 1 of 3 groups. Two groups were fitted with an external fixator, which they wore for a subsequent 10 weeks (one group with and one without joint distraction), and the third group had no external fixation (OA control group). Pain/function was studied by force plate analysis. Cartilage integrity and chondrocyte activity of the surgically untouched tibial plateaus were analyzed 25 weeks after removal of the fixator.
Results: Changes in force plate analysis values between the different treatment groups were not conclusive. Features of OA were present in the OA control group, in contrast to the generally less severe damage after joint distraction. Those treated with joint distraction had lower macroscopic and histologic damage scores, higher proteoglycan content, better retention of newly formed proteoglycans, and less collagen damage. In the fixator group without distraction, similarly diminished joint damage was found, although it was less pronounced.
Conclusion: Joint distraction as a treatment of experimentally induced OA results in cartilage repair activity, which corroborates the structural observations of cartilage repair indicated by surrogate markers in humans.
Copyright © 2015 by the American College of Rheumatology.