The administration of 0-2-0-4 mCi 90 yttrium (90Y) into a normal rabbit knee joint fails to induce medical synovectomy and results in the proliferation of the synovialis. The synovial mesothelium shows early radiation damage but subsequently follows a restitution of the whole. Later (within 4 to 16 weeks) an extensive fibrosis of the stratum synovialis develops, as well as an occlusion and sclerosis of smaller synovial vessels and capillaries. These changes explain the beneficial therapeutic effect of 90Y in a chronic inflammatory joint effusion. After irradiation that joint cartilage shows an increased cellular proliferation of the superficial tangential cells and in the vicinity of the cruciate ligaments small foci of degenerated cartilage are present. The overall pattern of a joint treated with intra-articular 90Y corresponds to the histological pattern encountered regularly in joints of older people. Changes of the cartilage after the 90Y radiation could represent a factor predisposing the treated joint to a subsequent development of osteoarthrosis.
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