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Keywords:

  • cartilage defect;
  • metallic implant;
  • medial femoral condyle;
  • animal model

Abstract

Focal full-thickness cartilage lesions of the human medial femoral condyle (MFC) can cause pain and functional impairment. Affected middle-aged patients respond unpredictably to existing treatments and knee arthroplasty may be required, prompting risk of revision. This study assesses the safety of, and biological and functional response to, a metallic resurfacing implant which may delay or obviate the need for traditional arthroplasty. The anatomic contour of the surgically exposed MFC of six adult goats was digitally mapped and an 11 mm diameter full-thickness osteochondral defect was created. An anchor-based Co–Cr resurfacing implant, matching the mapped articular contour, was implanted. Each goat's contralateral unoperated femorotibial joint was used as a control. Postoperative outcome was assessed by lameness examination, radiography, arthroscopy, synoviocentesis, necropsy, and histology up to 26 (n = 3) or 52 (n = 3) weeks. By postoperative week (POW) 4, goats demonstrated normal range of motion, no joint effusion, and only mild lameness in the operated limb. By POW 26 the animals were sound with only occasional very mild lameness. Arthroscopy at POW 14 revealed moderate synovial inflammation and a chondral membrane extending centrally across the implant surface. Radiographs at POWs 14 to 52 implied implant stability in the operated joints, as well as subchondral bone remodeling and mild exostosis formation in the operated and contralateral unoperated joints of some goats. By POW 26, histology revealed new trabecular bone abutting the implant. At POWs 26 and 52 MFC cartilage was metachromatic and intact in the operated and unoperated femorotibial joints. Proximal tibiae of some operated and unoperated limbs demonstrated limited subchondral bone remodeling and foci of articular cartilage fibrillation and thinning. The chondral membrane crossing the prosthesis possessed a metachromatic matrix containing singular and clustered chondrocytes. Our data imply the safety, biocompatibility, and functionality of the implant. Focal articular damage was documented in the operated joints at POWs 26 and 52, but lesions were much reduced over those previously reported in untreated defects. Expanded animal or preclinical human studies are justified. © 2006 Orthopaedic Research Society. Published by Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Orthop Res