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Keywords:

  • anterior cruciate ligament;
  • fine structure;
  • blood supply;
  • joint fluid;
  • corrosion cast

Abstract

This study was done to investigate the microvascular system of anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) using dogs. The objective was to study the microvascular architecture and the status of the barrier function of the capillary wall in the ACL by using microangiogram, scanning (SEM), and transmission electron microscopy (TEM). The vascular system in the ACL has been intensively studied by a number of researchers, using several microangiographic techniques in dogs, rabbits, and humans. However, most of these microangiographic studies had significant shortcomings, including the lack of three-dimensional observations and function of the blood–joint barrier in the ACL. In this study, the microstructure of the ACL was examined using microangiogram, SEM, and TEM. We investigated the vasculature of the ACL with SEM of vascular corrosion casts. In addition, we examined the status of the barrier function of the capillary wall in the ACL using the protein tracer horseradish peroxidase (HRP). Feeding vessels of the ligament were predominantly coming from the synovial-derived vessels originating from the synovium attached to the ligament near the tibial and femoral bone insertions of the ACL. The anterior cruciate ligament was surrounded by synovium, which had abundant vessels. The branches of these synovial vessels were penetrating into the ligament and making the intrinsic vascular network. It was also ascertained under SEM that the perivascular space around the intrinsic vessels were communicating through the intrinsic ligament fiber bundles and the mesh-like synovial membrane. The capillaries in the ACL were all of the continuous type under TEM. The protein tracer that was injected into the joint space passed through the synovial membrane and entered into the capillary lumen in the ACL, but the tracer that was injected intravenously did not appear in the perivascular space. The existence of a blood–ACL barrier does not necessarily imply the existence of an ACL–blood barrier. We think that the blood flow in the ACL is definitely affected by the status of joint fluid and these barriers of endothelium. The clinical relevance of the fine vascular anatomy of the ACL in trauma surgery is considered. This deserves further consideration. © 2006 Orthopaedic Research Society. Published by Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Orthop Res 24:1509–1520, 2006