Acta Orthopaedica, 89:2, 197-203, DOI: 10.1080/17453674.2017.1398559

High occurrence of osteoarthritic histopathological features unaccounted for by traditional scoring systems in lateral femoral condyles from total knee arthroplasty patients with varus alignment

Venkata P Mantripragada, Nicolas S Piuzzi, Terri Zachos, Nancy A Obuchowski, George F Muschler & Ronald J Midura

Background and purpose — A better understanding of the patterns and variation in initiation and progression of osteoarthritis (OA) in the knee may influence the design of therapies to prevent or slow disease progression. By studying cartilage from the human lateral femoral condyle (LFC), we aimed to: (1) assess specimen distribution into early, mild, moderate, and severe OA as per the established histopathological scoring systems (HHGS and OARSI); and (2) evaluate whether these 2 scoring systems provide sufficient tools for characterizing all the features and variation in patterns of OA.

Patients and methods — 2 LFC osteochondral specimens (4 x 4 x 8 mm) were collected from 50 patients with idiopathic OA varus knee and radiographically preserved lateral compartment joint space undergoing total knee arthroplasty. These were fixed, sectioned, and stained with HE and Safranin O-Fast Green (SafO).

Results — The histopathological OA severity distribution of the 100 specimens was: 6 early, 62 mild, 30 moderate, and 2 severe. Overall, 45/100 specimens were successfully scored by both HHGS and OARSI: 12 displayed low OA score and 33 displayed cartilage surface changes associated with other histopathological features. However, 55/100 samples exhibited low surface structure scores, but were deemed to be inadequately scored by HHGS and OARSI because of anomalous features in the deeper zones not accounted for by these systems: 27 exhibited both SafO and tidemark abnormal features, 16 exhibited only SafO abnormal features, and 12 exhibited tidemark abnormal features.

Interpretation — LFC specimens were scored as mild to moderate OA by HHGS and OARSI. Yet, several specimens exhibited deep zone anomalies while maintaining good surface structure, inconsistent with mild OA. Overall, a better classification of these anomalous histopathological features could help better understand idiopathic OA and potentially recognize different subgroups of disease.

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