OBJECTIVE: Exposure of articular cartilage to static air results in changes to the extracellular matrix (ECM) and stimulates chondrocyte death, which may cause joint degeneration. However during open orthopaedic surgery, cartilage is often exposed to laminar airflow, which may exacerbate these damaging effects. We compared drying in static and moving air in terms of cartilage appearance, hydration and chondrocyte viability, and tested the ability of saline-saturated gauze to limit the detrimental effects of air exposure.
DESIGN: Articular cartilage from bovine metatarsophalangeal joints (N = 50) and human femoral heads (N = 6) was exposed for 90 min to (1) static air (2) airflow (up to 0.34 m/s), or (3) airflow (0.18 m/s), covered with gauze. Following air exposure, cartilage was also rehydrated (0.9% saline; 120 min) to determine the reversibility of drying effects. The influence of airflow was assessed by studying macroscopic appearance, and quantifying superficial zone (SZ) chondrocyte viability and cartilage hydration.
RESULTS: Airflow caused advanced changes to cartilage appearance, accelerated chondrocyte death, and increased dehydration compared to static air. These effects were prevented if cartilage was covered by saline-saturated gauze. Cartilage rehydration reversed macroscopic changes associated with drying but the chondrocyte death was not altered. Chondrocytes at the cut edge of cartilage were more sensitive to drying compared to cells distant from the edge.
CONCLUSIONS: Airflow significantly increased articular cartilage dehydration and chondrocyte death compared to static air. As laminar airflow is routinely utilised in operating theatres, it is essential that articular cartilage is kept wet via irrigation or by covering with saline-saturated gauze to prevent chondrocyte death.
- Cartilage, Articular
- Cell Death
- Environment, Controlled