Objective. The slow rate at which articular cartilage degrades in dogs after transection of the anterior cruciate ligament (ACLT) has been attributed to capsular thickening and buttressing by osteophytes. We investigated the roles of the peripheral and central nervous systems in protecting knee joints with chronic ACL deficiency from breakdown.
Methods. Five groups of dogs were studied; all were killed 72 weeks after left knee surgery. Group A had ACLT, group B had ACLT followed 52 weeks later by ipsilateral L4–S1 dorsal root ganglionectomy (DRG), group C had DRG followed 2 weeks later by ACLT, group D had sham DRG followed 2 weeks later by ACLT, and group E had DRG followed 2 weeks later by sham ACLT.
Results. Group E dogs did not develop knee pathology. All cruciate-deficient knees were lax at the end of the study. The osteoarthritis (OA) that developed in groups A, B, and D was comparable (P > 0.05), and was significantly greater than that in group E (P < 0.05). Group C developed much more severe OA than any of the other groups (P < 0.05).
Conclusion. Ipsilateral sensory input is temporarily important in protecting the unstable joint from rapid breakdown. Over time, the central nervous system apparently acquires the ability to protect the unstable joint without continued ipsilateral sensory input.