Fresh Osteochondral Allograft Versus Autograft: Twelve-Month Results in Isolated Canine Knee Defects

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Osteochondral autografts and allografts have been widely used in the treatment of isolated grade 4 articular cartilage lesions of the knee. However, there is a paucity of literature regarding the basic science investigating the direct comparison between fresh osteochondral allografts to autografts.


At 12 months, fresh osteochondral allografts are equal to autografts with respect to function, bony incorporation into host bone, and chondrocyte viability.

Study Design:

Controlled laboratory study.


Eight adult mongrel dogs underwent bilateral hindlimb osteochondral graft implantation in the knee after creation of an acute Outerbridge grade 4 cartilage defect. One hindlimb of each dog knee received an autograft, and the contralateral knee received an allograft. All dogs were sacrificed at 12 months. Graft analysis included gross examination, radiographs, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), biomechanical testing, and histology.


MRI demonstrated excellent bony incorporation of both autografts and allografts, except for 1 allograft that revealed partial incorporation. Histologic examination of cartilage showed intact hyaline appearance for both autografts and allografts, with fibrocartilage at the host-graft interface of both. Biomechanical testing demonstrated no significant difference between allografts and autografts (P = .76). Furthermore, no significant difference was observed between allografts and the native cartilage with biomechanical testing (P = .84).


After 12 months from time of implantation, fresh osteochondral allograft tissue and autograft tissue in this study were not statistically different with respect to biomechanical properties, gross morphology, bony incorporation, or overall histologic characteristics. When compared with the previously reported 6-month incorporation rates, there was improved allograft and autograft incorporation at 12 months.

Clinical Relevance:

With no significant differences in gross examination, radiographs, MRI, biomechanical testing, or histology in the canine model, the use of allograft tissue to treat osteochondral defects may eliminate the morbidity associated with autograft harvest.

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