Objective. To evaluate the sequence of changes in articular cartilage, trabecular bone, and subchondral plate in dogs with osteoarthritis (OA), 3 months, 18 months, and 54 months after anterior cruciate ligament transection (ACLT).
Methods. Specimens of the medial tibial plateau were analyzed with microscopic computed tomography (micro-CT) at a resolution of 60 μm, and biochemical and morphologic changes in the femoral articular cartilage were assessed.
Results. At 3 months and 18 months after ACLT, the articular cartilage in the unstable knee showed histologic changes typical of early OA and increased water content and uronic acid concentration; by 54 months, full-thickness ulceration had developed. Micro-CT analysis showed a loss of trabecular bone in the unstable knee, compared with the contralateral knee, at all time points. At both 18 and 54 months, the differences in trabecular thickness and surface-to-volume ratio were greater than at 3 months. Although the mean subchondral plate thickness, especially in the medial aspect of the medial tibial plateau, was greater in the OA knee than in the contralateral knee 18 months and 54 months after ACLT, these differences were not statistically significant; however, the difference was significantly greater at 54 months than at 3 months.
Conclusion. Thickening of the subchondral bone is not required for the development of cartilage changes of OA in this model. The bony changes that develop after ACLT, however, could result in abnormal transmission of stress to the overlying cartilage and thereby contribute to the progression of cartilage degeneration.