Chondrocyte death associated with human femoral osteochondral harvest as performed for mosaicplasty

J. S. Huntley*, P. G. Bush, J. M. McBirnie, A. H. Simpson, A. C. Hall

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Autologous osteochondral transfer is an option for the treatment of articular defects. However, there are concerns about graft integration and the nature of the tissue forming the cartilage-cartilage bridge. Chondrocyte viability at graft and recipient edges is thought to be an important determinant of the quality of repair. The purpose of the present study was to evaluate early cell viability at the edges of osteochondral grafts from ex vivo human femoral condyles. Methods: Fresh human tissue was obtained from eleven knees at the time of total knee arthroplasty for the treatment of osteoarthritls. Osteochondral cylinders were harvested with use of a 4.5-mm-diameter mosaicplasty osteotome from regions of the anterolateral aspect of the femoral condyle that were macroscopically nondegenerate and histologically nonfibrillated. Plugs were assessed for marginal cell viability by means of confocal laser scanning microscopy. Results: The diameter of the cartilaginous portion of the osteochondral plugs was a mean (and standard error of the mean) of 4.84 ± 0.12 mm (as determined on the basis of three plugs). This value was approximately 300 μm greater than the measured internal diameter of the osteotome. There was a substantial margin of superficial zone cell death (mean thickness, 382 ± 68.2 μm), with >99% cell viability seen more centrally (as determined on the basis of five plugs). Demiplugs were created by splitting the mosaicplasty explants with a fresh number-11 scalpel blade. The margin of superficial zone cell death at the curved edge was significantly greater than that at the site of the scalpel cut (390.3 ± 18.8 μm compared with 34.8 ± 3.2 μm; p = 0.0286). Similar findings were observed when the cartilage alone was breached and the bone was left intact, with the margin of superficial zone cell death being significantly greater than that obtained in association with the straight scalpel incision (268 ± 38.9 μm compared with 41.3 ± 13.4 μm; p = 0.0286). The margin of superficial zone cell death showed no increase during the time-period between fifteen minutes and two hours after plug harvest. A mathematical approximation of the mosaicplasty region suggested that early cell death of this magnitude affects about one third of the superficial graft area. Conclusions: The results of the present study suggest that mosaicplasty, while capable of transposing viable hyaline cartilage, is associated with an extensive margin of cell death that is likely to compromise lateral integration and articular reconstruction. Clinical Relevance: The data suggest that there is a need to improve the plug-harvest technique, which may improve graft-recipient healing and clinical outcomes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)351-360
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Bone and Joint Surgery
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2005


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