In Vitro Chondrotoxicity of Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs and Opioid Medications

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Background:A variety of medications are administered to the intra-articular space for the relief of joint pain. While amide-type local anesthetics have been extensively studied, there is minimal information regarding the potential chondrotoxicity of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and opioid medications.Purpose:To investigate the in vitro chondrotoxicity of single-dose equivalent concentrations of ketorolac, morphine, meperidine, and fentanyl on human chondrocytes.Study Design:Controlled laboratory study.Methods:Human cartilage was arthroscopically harvested from the intercondylar notch and expanded in vitro. Gene expression of cultured chondrocytes before treatment was performed with quantitative polymerase chain reaction for type I collagen, type II collagen, aggrecan, and SOX9. Chondrocytes were then exposed to 0.01%, 0.02%, and 0.04% morphine sulfate; 0.3% and 0.6% ketorolac tromethamine; 0.5%, 1.0%, and 1.5% meperidine hydrochloride; 0.0005% and 0.001% fentanyl citrate; and saline. A custom bioreactor was used to constantly deliver medications, with the dosage of each medication and the duration of exposure based on standard dose equivalents, medication half-lives, and differences in the surface area between the 6-well plates and the native joint surface. After treatment, a live/dead assay was used to assess chondrocyte viability and if minimal cell death was detected. A subset of samples after treatment was maintained to analyze for possible delayed cell death.Results:All tested concentrations of ketorolac and meperidine caused significantly increased cell death versus the saline control, demonstrating a dose-response relationship. The morphine and fentanyl groups did not show increased chondrotoxicity compared with the saline group, even after 2 weeks of additional culture.Conclusion:In vitro exposure of chondrocytes to single-dose equivalent concentrations of either ketorolac or meperidine demonstrated significant chondrotoxicity, while exposure to morphine or fentanyl did not lead to increased cell death.

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