Changes in articular cartilage and subchondral bone histomorphometry in osteoarthritic knee joints in humans

Dragica Bobinac, Josip Spanjol, Sanja Zoricic, Ivana Maric
Bone 2003, 32 (3): 284-90
In this study, we have examined the correlation between the histological and histochemical changes of articular cartilage and bone parameters of the underlying subchondral bone. The aim was to elucidate patterns of bone parameter changes within different depths of subchondral bone in the joints with macroscopically normal cartilage and in joints with osteoarthritis (OA). Ten tibial plateaus were taken from patients during total knee replacement surgery due to severe OA. They were compared with 10 sets of tibial condyles obtained from autopsy subjects with no history of bone or joint disease. The cylindrical cartilage-bone samples were taken out from the anterior, posterior, external, and internal areas of the condyles for cartilage assessment (Mankin score) and subchondral bone histomorphometry. Four histomorphometric parameters were measured: bone volume (BV/TV), trabecular thickness (Tb.Th), trabecular number (Tb.N), and trabecular separation (Tb.S). Our study showed that subchondral bone from the OA group had significantly higher bone volume (54.1 +/- 10.6%) than control group (37.8 +/- 8.1%) (P < 0.01). In addition, trabecular parameters from the OA subchondral bone showed a smaller number of sparsely distributed and thicker trabecules than in control group (P < 0.05). Medial and lateral condyle from the control group did not differ significantly, while medial condyle from OA group showed a high increase of bone volume (62.8 +/- 13.3) and consecutively different trabecular parameters when compared with the lateral condyle from the same group. Also, it was shown that there are regional differences (anterior, posterior, internal, and external) in bone parameters between both condyles within both, control and OA groups. Comparison of bone parameters from three different stage of articular cartilage degeneration (Mankin score) showed that higher degree of cartilage degeneration is followed by significant changes in subchondral bone architecture. Furthermore, we have found that progression of cartilage degeneration leads to changes in bone parameters which affected deeper levels of subchondral bone. According to these results, it can be suggested that changes in histomorphometric parameters of subchondral bone are secondary to cartilage damage and proceed deeper into subchondral bone with increasing cartilage degeneration.

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