Just like menisci, articular cartilage is exposed to constant and varying stresses. Injuries to the meniscus are associated with the development of gonarthritis. Both the articular cartilage and the menisci are subject to structural changes under gonarthritis. The aim of this study was to investigate biomechanical alterations in articular cartilage and the menisci under gonarthritis by applying an indentation method. The study assessed 11 menisci from body donors as controls and 21 menisci from patients with severe gonarthritis. For the simultaneous examination of the articular cartilage and the menisci, we only tested the joint surfaces of the tibial plateau covered by the corresponding menisci. Over the posterior horn of the meniscus, the maximum applied load-the highest load registered by the load cell-of the arthritic samples of 0.02 +/- 0.02 N was significantly greater (p = 0.04) than the maximum applied load of the arthritis-free samples of 0.01 +/- 0.01 N. The instantaneous modulus (IM) at the center of the arthritic cartilage covered by the meniscus with 3.5 +/- 2.02 MPa was significantly smaller than the IM of the arthritis-free samples with 5.17 +/- 1.88 MPa (p = 0.04). No significant difference was found in the thickness of the meniscus-covered articular cartilage between the arthritic and arthritis-free samples. Significant correlations between the articular cartilage and the corresponding menisci were not observed at any point. In this study, the biomechanical changes associated with gonarthritis affected the posterior horn of the meniscus and the mid region of the meniscus-covered articular cartilage. The assessment of cartilage thickness as a structural characteristic of osteoarthritis may be misleading with regard to the interpretation of articular cartilagexxxs biomechanical properties.
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