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J Musculoskelet Neuronal Interact., 2006; 6(3): 284-90, PMID: 17142951

Effects of joint unloading and reloading on human cartilage morphology and function, muscle cross-sectional areas, and bone density - a quantitative case report

Jahr: 2006

Hudelmaier M, Glaser C, Hausschild A, Burgkart R, Eckstein F
Institute of Anatomy and Musculoskeletal Research, Paracelsus Medical Private University, Salzburg, Austria.


Recent studies have shown that thinning of human cartilage occurs with unloading, but no data are available on the effect of remobilization (after immobilization) on knee joint cartilage status in humans. We examined a 36-year-old patient after 6 weeks of unilateral immobilization. Knee joint cartilage morphology (patella and tibia), patellar cartilage deformation, and thigh muscle cross-sectional areas were assessed with quantitative MR imaging and bone density with peripheral quantitative computed tomography (pQCT) during 24 months of remobilization. The immobilized limb displayed lower muscle cross-sectional areas (MCSA) of the knee extensors (-36%), lower bone density of the femur and tibia (-12/-6%), lower patellar cartilage thickness (-14%), but no side differences of tibial cartilage thickness. During remobilization, side differences decreased to -4% for knee extensor MCSAs, to -6%/-3% for femoral and tibial BMD, and to -8% for patellar cartilage thickness. No change was observed in tibial cartilage. Patellar deformation decreased from 9% to 4% after 15 months. In conclusion, we observed substantial changes of thigh MCSAs, but little (patella) to no (tibia) change in cartilage thickness during remobilization. These preliminary results indicate that human cartilage macro-morphology may be less adaptive to variations of the mechanical loading than muscle and bone.

GID: 1208; Letzte Änderung: 05.03.2008
Weitere Informationen: Original Article