The Biological Response following Autogenous Bone Grafting for Large-Volume Defects of the Knee: Index Surgery through 12 to 21 Years' Follow-up

Cartilage. 2012 Jan;3(1):86-99. doi: 10.1177/1947603511413568.


Objective: This report focuses on the biological events occurring at various intervals following autogenous bone grafting of large-volume defects of the knee joint's femoral condyle secondary to osteochondritis dissecans (OCD) or osteonecrosis (ON). It was hypothesized that the autogenous bone graft would integrate and the portion exposed to the articular surface would form fibrocartilage, which would endure for years.

Methods: Between September 29, 1987 and August 8, 1994, there were 51 patients treated with autogenous bone grafting for large-volume osteochondral defects. Twenty-five of the 51 patients were available for long-term follow-up up to 21 years. Patient follow-up was accomplished by clinical opportunity and intentional research. Videotapes were available on all index surgeries for review and comparison. All had preoperative and postoperative plain film radiographs. Long-term follow-up included MRI up to 21 years. Second-look arthroscopy and biopsy were obtained on 14 patients between 8 weeks and 20 years.

Results: Radiological assessment showed the autogenous bone grafts integrated with the host bone. The grafts retained the physical geometry of the original placement. MRI showed soft tissue covering the grafts in all cases at long-term follow-up. Interval biopsy showed the surface covered with fibrous tissue at 8 weeks and subsequently converted to fibrocartilage with hyaline cartilage at 20 years.

Conclusion: Autogenous bone grafting provides a matrix for large osteochondral defects that integrates with the host bone and results in a surface repair of fibrocartilage and hyaline cartilage that can endure for up to 20 years.

Keywords: articular cartilage < tissue; biopsy < research methods; histology: staining < research methods; knee < joint involved; magnetic resonance imaging < diagnostics.