© 2011 Orthopaedic Research Society Published by Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Orthop Res 30:214–220, 2012

Critical‐size defect induces unicompartmental osteoarthritis in a stable ovine knee

Martina Schinhan Martin Gruber Patrick Vavken Ronald Dorotka Leila Samouh Catharina Chiari Ruth Gruebl‐Barabas Stefan Nehrer

Animal models simulating osteoarthritis are frequently associated with irreversible changes in biomechanics. Although these models successfully induce osteoarthritis, results of experimental repair procedures are impaired by biomechanical problems. The aim of this study was to define the critical size of a chondral lesion to induce unicompartmental osteoarthritis in a stable joint. Sixteen sheep were randomly divided into four treatment groups. A cartilage defect (7‐ or 14‐mm diameter) was created in the weight‐bearing zone of the medial femoral condyle. The sheep were mobilized for 6 or 12 weeks. Osteoarthritis was determined by gross assessment, India ink staining, histology (Mankin score), and analysis of COMP in the serum. In the 6‐week group, only minor osteoarthritis was registered for either defect size. After 12 weeks, the 14‐mm defect induced minor osteoarthritis at the femoral condyle and caused significant degenerative changes at the tibial articular cartilage and the meniscus. The 7‐mm defect created focal unicompartmental osteoarthritis at the medial femoral condyle and minor degenerative changes at the corresponding tibia. A 7‐mm full‐thickness chondral defect with a weight‐bearing regimen of 12 weeks induced local osteoarthritis at the medial compartment in an otherwise stable joint as aimed.

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