Histopathologic Changes in Growth-Plate Cartilage Following Ischemic Necrosis of the Capital Femoral Epiphysis: An Experimental Investigation in Immature Pigs


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Abstract

Background:The developing capital femoral epiphysis consists of a secondary center of ossification surrounded by epiphyseal cartilage. Between the epiphyseal cartilage and the secondary center of ossification is a growth plate, which contributes to the circumferential increase in size of the secondary center of ossification during development. The main objective of this study was to describe the histopathologic changes that occur in the growth plate surrounding the secondary center of ossification during the early and reparative phases following the induction of ischemic necrosis of the capital femoral epiphysis in immature pigs.Methods:Ischemic necrosis of the capital femoral epiphysis was induced in eighteen piglets by placing a nonabsorbable suture ligature around the femoral neck following a capsulotomy and transection of the ligamentum teres. The animals were killed three days to eight weeks following the induction of ischemia, and visual, radiographic, and histologic assessments were performed.Results:Two to four weeks after the induction of ischemic necrosis, the growth plate surrounding the secondary center of ossification became necrotic. The observed histopathologic changes included chondrocyte death, loss of safranin-O staining of the matrix of the necrotic growth-plate cartilage, an absence of vascular invasion of terminal hypertrophic chondrocytes, and a decrease in the amount of primary spongiosa, indicating cessation of endochondral ossification. In the reparative phase, at four to eight weeks postoperatively, chondrocyte clusters and intense safranin-O staining were observed in the epiphyseal cartilage around the necrotic growth-plate cartilage. In the peripheral region of the femoral head, necrotic growth-plate cartilage surrounding the secondary center of ossification was resorbed by a fibrovascular tissue from the marrow space. By six weeks, new accessory centers of ossification with restored endochondral ossification were observed in the peripheral epiphyseal cartilage. New ossification centers contributed to the fragmented radiographic appearance of the secondary center of ossification. The physis appeared essentially normal in most animals, although five of the eighteen piglets showed mild or moderate histopathologic changes.Conclusions:In this model, ischemic necrosis of the capital femoral epiphysis resulted in necrosis of the growth plate surrounding the secondary center of ossification. Small new ectopic centers of ossification appeared in the epiphyseal cartilage, explaining in part the fragmented radiographic appearance of the secondary center of ossification.Clinical Relevance:This immature swine model may facilitate systematic study of the sequence of cellular and structural events that follow ischemic injury to the capital femoral epiphysis. Better understanding of the injury and repair processes that follow ischemia may lead to novel treatment strategies to stimulate the repair of the infarcted capital femoral epiphysis and to restore normal growth of the secondary center of ossification.

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