Periods of reduced joint loading have been shown to induce changes in the biochemical composition, metabolism and mechanics of articular cartilage. In this study, changes in cartilage swelling behavior were studied following a 4-week period of joint immobilization, using a recently developed osmotic loading technique [J. Biomech. 32 (1999) 401-408]. The magnitude and distribution of swelling strains were measured in cartilage-bone samples equilibrated in physiological and hypotonic saline, relative to a hypertonic reference NaCl solution. Physicochemical parameters (glycosaminoglycan fixed charge density and water volume fraction) were determined in site-matched cartilage samples. The experimental data for swelling strains, fixed charge density and water volume fraction were used with a triphasic mechano-chemical theory [J. Biomech. Eng. 113 (1991) 245-258] to determine the effect of joint immobilization on the tensile modulus of the cartilage solid matrix. Four weeks of immobilization resulted in a significant increase in the magnitude of swelling-induced strains, and a significant decrease in fixed charge density in cartilage, as compared with the contralateral controls. Joint immobilization also resulted in decreases in values for the modulus of cartilage, as compared with the contralateral controls. Our results suggest that 4 weeks of joint immobilization had a significant effect on cartilage mechanical function that may be linked to collagen changes in the cartilage extracellular matrix.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Orthopedics and Sports Medicine