Objective: To quantify inflammatory changes in synovial membranes from orthopaedic “non-inflammatory” arthropathies (Orth. A).
Methods: Synovial membranes from patients with femur fracture, avascular necrosis of the femur, plica syndrome, and meniscus and/or ligament injury (n = 23); rheumatoid arthritis (n = 28); osteoarthritis (OA; n = 25); and from normal controls (n = 10) were assessed by light microscopy, a histological synovitis score, immunostaining for CD3, CD20, CD38, CD68, Ki-67 and von Willebrand factor, and with an immunohistochemical inflammation score.
Results: Orth. A histology varied between normal and markedly inflamed. Predominant abnormalities were mild lining hyperplasia, scattered inflammatory cells and small perivascular infiltrates. The synovitis score classified Orth. A as “mild synovitis”. Inflammatory cells occurred frequently: CD68+ cells in 100% of Orth. A specimens; CD3+, 91%; CD38+, 70%; and CD20+, 39%. Orth. A had 36% greater lining thickness (p = 0.04), 40% higher vascular density (p = 0.009) and 51.3-fold higher CD38+ cell density (p = 0.02) than normal controls; and 60% fewer subintimal Ki-67+ cells (p = 0.003), 42% fewer CD68+ lining cells (p<0.01) and 40% fewer subintimal CD68+ cells (p<0.01) than OA. The immunohistochemical inflammation score was 2.2-fold higher in Orth. A than in controls (p = 0.048) and similar to OA, with three Orth. A specimens showing marked inflammation.
Conclusions: Synovial membranes from “non-inflammatory” arthropathies featured neovascularisation and inflammation intermediate between normal and OA synovium. These results expand previous findings that mechanical joint injury may lead to a mild-to-moderate synovitis.
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Funding: FP was supported by National Institutes of Health Training Grants T32-AR 007442 and T32-CA 09140.
Competing interests: None.
Ethics approval: Approved by the institutional review boards of the Philadelphia VA Medical Center.
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