Free nerve endings and morphological features of the ligamentum capitis femoris in developmental dysplasia of the hip


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Abstract

A conflict exists on whether the ligamentum capitis femoris has the neuro-morphological structures required for nociception or proprioception of the hip joint. Therefore, we investigated the morphological features and the presence of mechanoreceptors in 24 ligamentum capitis femoris biopsies obtained at open reduction in patients with developmental dysplasia of the hip. Of these 24 hips, 16 were completely dislocated and eight were subluxated. The mean age was 33.8 months (range 13–52 months) at the time of surgery. En bloc ligamentum capitis femoris and pulvinar were taken for biopsy specimen. Ligamentum capitis femoris was dissected and the weight of each ligament was determined using a highly sensitive balance. Specimens were stained with hematoxylin and eosin and Masson trichrome for routine histolopathological evaluation and examined immunohistochemically using monoclonal antibody against S-100 protein. All specimens were graded on a four-grade system according to the amount of coarse-thick collagen bundles and hyalinization. The mean number and type of mechanoreceptors of each specimen were recorded. When the mean age, the patient's weight and the ligamentum capitis femoris weight of each group (completely dislocated vs. subluxated) were compared, there were no significant differences. In the ligamentum capitis femoris of the dislocated hips, the cells were irregularly distributed, had different shapes, and appeared to be in different stages of functional activity. The collagen fiber bundles were thicker than in the subluxated hips, distributed and of varied thickness. The elastic fibers of the dislocated hips were thicker and more numerous than those in the subluxated hips. We found a significant difference between the two groups with regard to the grade of collagen and hyalinization of ligamentum capitis femoris (P<0.004). We found type IVa, free nerve endings in 16 of 24 samples of ligamentum capitis femoris. The 66.6% presence of free nerve endings in the ligamentum capitis femoris suggests a role in nociception/proprioception of the hip in developmental dysplasia of the hip. Interestingly, the percentage and the mean numbers of free nerve endings containing ligamentum capitis femoris were similar in completely dislocated hip group and the subluxated group (62.5 vs. 75%, 12.13±9.07 vs. 9.37±9.24, respectively). We conclude that the morphological features of ligamentum capitis femoris are influenced by the severity of developmental dysplasia of the hip, whereas the distribution of free nerve endings are not influenced.

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