Articular-epiphyseal cartilage complexes from the distal femur and humerus of five 3-month-old pigs were collected and preserved using either a conventional or a ruthenium hexammine trichloride (RHT)-supplemented fixation technique. Lesions were similar regardless of the fixation technique. Areas of necrosis were in epiphyseal but not articular cartilage from both sites of all pigs. Cartilage canals were confined to epiphyseal cartilage and contained vessels which had endothelial cells in varying stages of degeneration and necrosis. Areas of necrotic cartilage often were adjacent to or surrounded degenerate cartilage canals. Lipid emboli (up to 40.0 γm in diameter) were infrequently located in vessels within cartilage canals. Associated with the lipid emboli were leukocytes, erythrocytes, necrotic cell remnants, and flocculent material. Restriction of necrosis to epiphyseal cartilage and the association of these necrotic areas with degenerating vessels in cartilage canals strongly implicate a defect in cartilage canal blood supply in the pathogenesis of osteochondrosis. The RHT fixation technique resulted in excellent cellular detail at the light microscopic level, but ultrastructurally there was marked vacuolation of chondrocytes and matrix. The conventional technique caused shrinkage of all chondrocytes, resulting in a wide halo of pericellular matrix surrounding each cell.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This work was supported by U.S. Department of Agriculture grant 59227112080 and NIH grant AR07647. The authors thank Sarah Bierley and the electron microscopy laboratory for technical assistance.