Background: Full-depth cartilage lesions do not heal and the long-term clinical outcome is uncertain. In the symptomatic middle-aged (35-60 years) patient, treatment with metal implants has been proposed. However, the cartilage health surrounding these implants has not been thoroughly studied. Our objective was to evaluate the health of cartilage opposing and adjacent to metal resurfacing implants.
Methods: The medial femoral condyle was operated in 9 sheep bilaterally. A metallic resurfacing metallic implant was immediately inserted into an artificially created 7.5 mm defect while on the contralateral knee the defect was left untreated. Euthanasia was performed at 6 months. Six animals, of similar age and study duration, from a previous study were used for comparison in the evaluation of cartilage health adjacent to the implant. Cartilage damage to joint surfaces within the knee, cartilage repair of the defect, and cartilage adjacent to the implant was evaluated macroscopically and microscopically.
Results: Six animals available for evaluation of cartilage health within the knee showed a varying degree of cartilage damage with no statistical difference between defects treated with implants or left untreated ( P = 0.51; 95% CI -3.7 to 6.5). The cartilage adjacent to the implant (score 0-14; where 14 indicates no damage) remained healthy in these 6 animals showing promising results (averaged 10.5; range 9-11.5, SD 0.95). Cartilage defects did not heal in any case.
Conclusion: Treatment of a critical size focal lesion with a metal implant is a viable alternative treatment.
Keywords: animal study; focal cartilage lesion; knee joint; metal implant; sheep.