Ischemic necrosis of cartilage in spontaneous and experimental lesions of osteochondrosis

C. S. Carlson, D. J. Meuten, D. C. Richardson

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This study was designed to examine the association of spontaneous lesions of osteochondrosis with vascular supply to epiphyseal cartilage, and to determine whether similar lesions could be experimentally reproduced by selective interruption of cartilage canal blood supply. The vascular supply to the articular–epiphyseal cartilage complex of the distal end of the femur was studied in 27 microfil‐ or barium‐injected and cleared specimens and 24 serially sectioned microangiographic specimens from 27 clinically normal female swine (3.6 to 71.0 kg). Blood vessels supplying the articular‐epiphyseal cartilage complex were consistently restricted to the epiphyseal region and the number of vessels decreased as the pigs increased in weight (p < 0.001). Spontaneous lesions of osteochondrosis (i.e., cartilage necrosis) were initially seen in the first areas of epiphyseal cartilage to become avascular and were associated with necrotic blood vessels. The number and size of foci of necrotic cartilage increased as the pigs increased in weight (p < 0.001). Blood supply to epiphyseal cartilage from cartilage canal vessels was surgically interrupted in a highly vascular area of the medial femoral condyle in eight additional 23‐kg female swine. This procedure resulted in necrosis of blood vessels within cartilage canals followed by necrosis of surrounding cartilage, lesions that appeared to be identical to early spontaneous lesions of osteochondrosis. These results suggest that the viability of epiphyseal cartilage in the articularepiphyseal cartilage complex is highly dependent on an adequate blood supply from cartilage canal vessels, and strongly implicates a defect in blood supply in the pathogenesis of osteochondrosis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)317-329
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Orthopaedic Research
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 1991


  • Articular cartilage
  • Cartilage canals
  • Epiphyseal cartilage
  • Ischemia
  • Osteochondrosis

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