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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.To investigate the in vitro chondrotoxicity of single-dose equivalent concentrations of ketorolac, morphine, meperidine, and fentanyl on human chondrocytes.Controlled laboratory study.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.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.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.