The morphogenesis of porcine femoral head mammillary processes: A structural mechanism of biomechanical stability


The capital femoral physis is a growth plate located between the head of the femur and femoral neck, which forms a temporary joint where growth plate cartilage is converted to bone by endochondral ossification. The bone-cartilage-bone interface develops a unique radial pattern of interdigitating mammillary processes that interlock the femoral head with the metaphysis, increasing biomechanical stability. The arrangement of these mammillary processes may not be a random occurrence and likely serves to provide mechanical mechanisms to enhance biomechanical stability. In this study, we provide a qualitative and quantitative analysis of porcine femoral head mammillary processes and focus on the analysis of six key points of development: the epiphyseal tubercle, epiphyseal cupping, growth plate slope angles, expansion of the epiphyseal subchondral bone plate, epiphyseal elongation, and the emergence of smaller, radially arranged mammillary processes. We introduce a metric of surface roughness analysis to quantify mammillary processes and apply it to analyze the development of the observed radial pattern of peripheral mammillary processes from birth to adolescence. We hypothesized that these processes develop to form a radial pattern with some degree of periodicity beginning relatively early in development of the joint and increase in prominence with age and weight of the animal. These findings may have important implications in the early diagnosis and treatment of the hip disorder slipped capital femoral epiphysis (SCFE). Underdevelopment of femoral head mammillary processes may reduce joint stability and could be a risk factor in SCFE.

Publication Title

Anatomical Record