Focal chondral defects alter joint mechanics and cause pain and debilitation. Microfracture is a surgical technique used to treat such defects. This technique involves penetration of subchondral bone to release progenitor cells and growth factors from the marrow to promote cartilage regeneration. Often this results in fibrocartilage formation rather than structured hyaline cartilage. Some reports have suggested use of growth hormone (GH) with microfracture to augment cartilage regeneration. Our objective was to test whether intra-articular (IA) GH in conjunction with microfracture, improves cartilage repair in a rabbit chondral defect model. We hypothesized that GH would exhibit a dose-dependent improvement in regeneration.Design
Sixteen New Zealand white rabbits received bilateral femoral chondral defects and standardized microfracture repair. One group of animals (n = 8) received low-dose GH by IA injection in the left knee, and the other group (n = 8) received high-dose GH in the same manner. All animals received IA injection of saline in the contralateral knee as control. Serum assays, macroscopic grading, and histological analyses were used to assess any improvements in cartilage repair.Results
Peripheral serum GH was not elevated postoperatively (P = 0.21). There was no improvement in macroscopic grading scores among either of the GH dosages (P = 0.83). Scoring of safranin-O–stained sections showed no improvement in cartilage regeneration and some evidence of increased bone formation in the GH-treated knees.Conclusions
Treatment with either low- or high-dose IA GH does not appear to enhance short-term repair in a rabbit chondral defect model.