Section of the anterior cruciate ligament has been performed in the knee of 11 mature dogs. The macroscopically normal cartilage from patella and femoral trochlea of animals killed from 2 to 32 weeks after operation was used for histological, histomorphometrical, and biochemical analysis. Previously undescribed degenerative lesions of the superficial matrix were observed, and there was evidence for secondary healing of these lesions. An early and progressive decrease in superficial cell density and a later progressive increase in cartilage thickness without any change in the cell density of the middle and deep cartilage layers was found. A slight increase in water content with no reduction in glycosaminoglycan content was observed. The results suggest that joint laxity results initially in superficial degenerative changes and later in hypertrophic regenerative changes due to cell proliferation and increased matrix synthesis. Hypertrophic remodeling of articular cartilage in response to abnormal mechanical stresses is postulated.
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