Treatment of Articular Cartilage Defects With Microfracture and Autologous Matrix-Induced Chondrogenesis Leads to Extensive Subchondral Bone Cyst Formation in a Sheep Model


Aswin Beck, David J. Murphy, Richard Carey-Smith, David J. Wood, and Ming H. Zheng


Background: Microfracture and the autologous matrix-induced chondrogenesis (AMIC) technique are popular for the treatment of articular cartilage defects. However, breaching of the subchondral bone plate could compromise the subchondral bone structure.
Hypothesis: Microfracture and AMIC will cause deleterious effects on the subchondral bone structure.
Study Design: Controlled laboratory study.
Methods: A total of 36 sheep received an 8-mm-diameter cartilage defect in the left medial femoral condyle. Control animals (n = 12) received no further treatment, and the rest received 5 microfracture holes either with a type I/III collagen scaffold implanted (n = 12; AMIC group) or without the collagen scaffold (n = 12; microfracture group). Macroscopic infill of defects, histology, and histomorphometry of the subchondral bone were performed at 13 and 26 weeks postoperatively, and micro–computed tomography (CT) was also performed at 26 weeks postoperatively.
Results: Microfracture and AMIC resulted in subchondral bone cyst formation in 5 of 12 (42%) and 11 of 12 (92%) specimens at 13 and 26 weeks, respectively. Subchondral bone changes induced by microfracture and AMIC were characterized by an increased percentage of bone volume, increased trabecular thickness, and a decreased trabecular separation, and extended beyond the area below the defect. High numbers of osteoclasts were observed at the cyst periphery, and all cysts communicated with the microfracture holes. Cartilage repair tissue was of poor quality and quantity at both time points and rarely reached the tidemark at 13 weeks.
Conclusion: Microfracture technique caused bone cyst formation and induced severe pathology of the subchondral bone in a sheep model.
Clinical Relevance: The potential of microfracture technique to induce subchondral bone pathology should be considered.