Ninety-nine mature New Zealand White (NZW) rabbits underwent unilateral anterior cruciate ligament transection (ACLT) and were divided into three groups. The contralateral non-operated knees served as controls. The first group (SA) received intra-articular injections of 0.3 ml hyaluronan (HA: MW; 8 x 10(5)) beginning 4 weeks after ACLT, once a week for 5 weeks. The second group (SV) was injected with vehicle (carrier of HA) in the same fashion as the SA group. The third group (SN) served as a nontreatment group post ACLT. All animals were killed 9 weeks post-surgery and were assessed by gross morphology, histomorphometry and biochemical analysis. Gross morphologic changes on the femoral cartilage in the SA group were less severe than those in the SV and SN groups. Cartilage thickness, cartilage area, and thickness of synovial lining cell layer histomorphometric parameters were measured, showing a positive effect of HA on the preservation of articular cartilage and synovial tissue. Similarly, the cartilage and synovial tissues from knees injected with HA did not demonstrate significant alterations from contralateral controls as measured by biochemical analysis [i.e., water content, pyridinoline concentration, glycosaminoglycan (GAG) content for the cartilage, and DNA concentration for the synovial tissue].