In vivo knee joint loading and kinematics before and after ACL transection in an animal model

E M Hasler, W Herzog, T R Leonard, A Stano, H Nguyen
Journal of Biomechanics 1998, 31 (3): 253-62
Osteoarthritis (OA) is typically diagnosed in humans in its final stage when joint movement becomes painful. Clinical information about the onset and the mechanisms triggering the degenerative responses are virtually non-existent. However, research on animal models of experimental OA shows that joint adaptations associated with the onset of OA can be detected as early as two to four weeks following disruption of the normal joint mechanics. Transection of the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) has been shown to cause OA-like symptoms in various animal models including the cat. However. the changes in joint loading responsible for the early tissue responses have not been quantified in vivo. Consequently, the relationship between abnormal joint loading and the onset of OA remains unknown. The purpose of this study was to quantify knee loading before and early after ACL transection in the cat. Knee mechanics were assessed by measuring patellar tendon forces, gastrocnemius forces, knee flexor and extensor EMGs, and hindlimb kinematics before and 5, 7, and 9 days following ACL transection in six experimental and two sham-operated animals. The knee mechanics were not affected by sham-surgery but the muscular forces. knee extensor EMGs, and knee range of motion were reduced following ACL transection compared to corresponding pre-intervention values. These results suggest that ACL transection causes a general unloading and changed kinematics of the knee. We speculate that the decrease in loading and the altered kinematics are responsible for the onset of biologic adaptations of the knee. Precise data about the local joint contact mechanics before and after ACL transection are now required to further relate the detailed changes in the knee mechanics to the early joint changes.

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