Changes of articular cartilage after immobilization in a rat knee contracture model

Yoshihiro Hagiwara, Akira Ando, Eiichi Chimoto, Yoshifumi Saijo, Kaori Ohmori-Matsuda, Eiji Itoi

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The objective was to determine the changes of articular cartilage of the knee joint during immobilization in a rat model. The knee joints of adult male rats were immobilized at 1508 of flexion using an internal fixator for 3 days, and 1, 2, 4, 8, and 16 weeks. The articular cartilage from the medial midcondylar region of the knee was obtained, divided into three areas (non-contact area, transitional area, contact area), and in each area, a degree of degeneration was evaluated by gross observation, histomorphometric grading, and measurements of thickness and number of chondrocytes. Elasticity of the articular cartilage was estimated by measuring the sound speed with use of scanning acoustic microscopy. Degeneration of the articular cartilage was mainly observed in the contact and transitional areas. Matrix staining intensity by safranin-O and number of chondrocytes were decreased in these two areas. The thickness of the articular cartilage in the non-contact and contact areas was unchanged, but it was increased in the transitional area. Decrease in sound speed was observed in the transitional area of both the femoral and tibial cartilage, indicating the softening of the articular cartilage. The changes of articular cartilage became obvious as early as 1 week after immobilization. These changes may be due to a lack of mechanical stress or a lack of joint fluid circulation during immobilization. Although we do not know the reversibility of these changes of articular cartilage, early mobilization is preferable to avoid these cartilage changes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)236-242
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Orthopaedic Research
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2009 Feb


  • Articular cartilage
  • Degeneration
  • Immobilization
  • Mechanical property
  • Scanning acoustic microscopy


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