Effects of degeneration on the compressive and tensile properties of human meniscus


Healthy menisci function within the joint to prevent the underlying articular cartilage from excessive loads. Understanding how mechanical properties of menisci change with degeneration can drive future therapeutic studies to prevent this degeneration. Thus, the goal of this study was to characterize both compressive and tensile moduli of human menisci with varying degrees of gross damage due to osteoarthritis (OA). Twenty four paired menisci were collected from total knee joint replacement patients and the menisci were graded on a scale from 0-4 according to level of gross meniscal degeneration with 0=normal and 4=full tissue maceration. Each meniscus was then sectioned into anterior and posterior regions and subjected to indentation relaxation tests. Samples were sliced into 1. mm thick strips, made into dumbbells using a custom punch, and pulled to failure. Significant decreases in instantaneous compressive modulus were seen in the lateral posterior region between grades 0 and 1 (36% decrease) and in the medial anterior regions between grades 1 and 2 (67% decrease) and 1 and 3 (72% decrease). Changes in equilibrium modulus where seen in the lateral anterior region between grades 1 and 2 (35% decrease), lateral posterior region between grades 0-2 (41% decrease), and medial anterior regions between grades 1 and 2 (59% decrease), 1 and 3 (67% decrease), 2 and 4 (54% decrease), and 3 and 4 (42% decrease). No significant changes were observed in tensile modulus across all regions and degenerative grades. The results of this study demonstrate the compressive moduli are affected even in early stages of gross degeneration, and continue to decrease with increased deterioration. However, osteoarthritic menisci retain a tensile modulus similar to that of previously reported healthy menisci. This study highlights progressive changes in meniscal mechanical compressive integrity as level of gross tissue degradation increases, and thus, early interventions should focus on restoring or preserving compressive integrity.

Publication Title

Journal of Biomechanics