Arthroscopic evaluation of cartilage degeneration using indentation testing—Influence of indenter geometry

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It has been suggested that the early onset of cartilage degeneration might be detected with a handheld indentation probe during knee arthroscopy, prior to any visible change on the articular surface. Collagen degradation has been considered as the first sign of cartilage degeneration. Therefore, it is important to consider the collagen network as a distinct constituent in the study of arthroscopic evaluation of cartilage degeneration.


The tip of an arthroscopic probe (indenter) was modeled as rigid and in contact with a cartilage/bone disk of sufficiently large radius to simulate an indentation in a joint. A fibril-reinforced model of cartilage, including streaming potentials and distinct constitutive laws for the proteoglycan matrix and collagen network, was used to determine the contact mechanics of indenter and cartilage. The finite element package ABAQUS was employed to obtain numerical solutions.


A spherical indenter produces a relatively uniform deformation in cartilage, but can easily slide on the articular surface. In contrast, a cylindrical indenter produces great deformation gradients for quick compression rates, but does not slide as easily on the articular surface as the spherical indenter. Small porous and large solid indenters should be used to evaluate the properties of the proteoglycan matrix and collagen network, respectively, in order to minimize or maximize the fluid pressure in the corresponding case. When the collagen network is substantially degraded, the gradients of fluid pressure and deformation are greatly reduced regardless of indenter geometry.


The indenter geometry including its porosity is important to the material safety of articular cartilage in indentation and precise evaluation of cartilage degeneration.

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