To investigate the effect of instability on the remodelling of a minor articular surface offset, we created a 0.5 mm coronal step-off of the medial femoral condyle in 12 New Zealand white rabbits and transected the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). A control group of 12 rabbits had only ACL resection and the opposite knee was used as the non-operated control. The osteoarthritic changes at 6, 12 and 24 weeks after surgery were evaluated histologically. In addition, changes in the immunological detection of 3-B-3(-) and 7-D-4 chondroitin-6-sulphate epitopes were determined because of the previous association of such changes with repair of cartilage and early osteoarthritis.
In the instability/step-off group there was rapidly progressing focal degeneration of cartilage on the high side of the defect, not seen in previous step-off studies in stable knees. The rest of the femoral condyles and the tibial plateaux of the instability/step-off group had moderate osteoarthritis similar to that of the instability group. 3-B-3(-) was detectable in the early and the intermediate stages of osteoarthritis but no staining was seen in the severely damaged cartilage zones. Immunoreactivity with 7-D-4 increased as degeneration progressed.
Our findings have shown that even a minor surface offset may induce rapid degeneration of cartilage when the stability of the knee is compromised.
- Received November 26, 1998.
- Accepted July 23, 1999.
- © 2001 British Editorial Society of Bone and Joint Surgery