Objective: To determine if differences in biomechanical properties and biochemical composition exist between human patellar articular cartilage and the opposing femoral articular cartilage.
Design: The biomechanical properties and biochemical composition of the articular cartilage of 17 knees from 13 donors were determined for four sites on the patella and three sites on the femur representing regions of contact at 30 degrees and 90 degrees of flexion. The material properties were determined by biphasic indentation testing, yielding the compressive aggregate modulus, HA, permeability, k, and Poisson's ratio, vs. The thickness of the cartilage at the indentation site, h, was also measured using a needle probe. Full-thickness samples of cartilage adjacent to each indentation site were used for wet weight, sulfated glycosaminoglycan content and hydroxyproline content determinations.
Results: The patellar cartilage was found to have a lower compressive aggregate modulus by 30% (P < 0.001), higher permeability to fluid flow by 66% (P < 0.001) and greater thickness by 23% (P = 0.017) than that of the opposing femoral cartilage. The Poisson's ratios for both surfaces were found to be nearly zero. The water content of the patella was higher by 5% (P = 0.031) and the proteoglycan content lower by 19% (P = 0.030) than that of the femur. However, no differences were found between the collagen contents of the cartilages.
Conclusions: Significant differences were found between the intrinsic material properties of the patellar cartilage and those of the femoral-trochlear cartilage. This variability of cartilage material properties with the patellofemoral joint may help explain why patellar cartilage has been frequently observed clinically to exhibit earlier and more severe fibrillation changes than the opposing femoral cartilage.