Comparative study of the intrinsic mechanical properties of the human acetabular and femoral head cartilage

J Orthop Res. 1994 May;12(3):340-9. doi: 10.1002/jor.1100120306.


Biphasic creep indentation methodology and an automated indentation apparatus were used to measure the aggregate modulus, Poisson's ratio, permeability, thickness, creep and recovery equilibrium times, and percentage of recovery of normal articular cartilage in 10 human hip joints. These properties were mapped regionally to examine the mechanical factors involved in the development of site-specific degenerative lesions in the acetabulum and femoral head. The results indicate that there are significant differences between these properties regionally in the acetabulum and femoral head and between the two anatomical structures. Specifically, it was found that cartilage in the superomedial aspect of the femoral head has a 41% larger aggregate modulus than its anatomically corresponding articulating surface in the acetabulum. In addition, the superomedial aspect of the femoral head has the greatest aggregate modulus (1.816 MPa) within the hip joint. During sitting, the inferior portion of the femoral head is in contact with the anterior acetabulum, and the anterior acetabulum has a 53% greater aggregate modulus than the inferior femoral head. This area below the fovea on the femoral head has the least aggregate modulus (0.814 MPa) within the hip joint. These mismatches in the compressive modulus of opposing articulating surfaces may contribute to degeneration of cartilage in the superomedial acetabulum and the inferior femoral head. Our findings support the clinical observation that these areas are frequent sites of early degeneration.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Acetabulum / anatomy & histology
  • Acetabulum / physiology*
  • Adult
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Cartilage, Articular / anatomy & histology
  • Cartilage, Articular / physiology*
  • Female
  • Femur Head / anatomy & histology
  • Femur Head / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Reference Values