Objectives: The mechanism of new bone formation at entheses in spondyloarthritis (SpA) is poorly understood, but it is a key factor contributing to disability in disease. As bony spur development is also an age-related phenomenon, we studied spurs in elderly dissecting room cadavers in order to establish general principles relating to their development.
Methods: Spurs of different sizes were studied by routine histology at 26 different entheses (a total of 76 specimens) from the upper limb, lower limb and spine. The percentage of bone marrow was compared in the posterior part of the calcaneus in cadavers with and without Achilles spurs to ascertain the relationship between spurs and immediately adjacent trabecular bone.
Results: Bony spur formation was a common age related phenomena and typically occurred in the most fibrous part of an enthesis. Paradoxically, it was often heralded by the initial appearance of a thick zone of calcified fibrocartilage that subsequently developed bony nodules within it. Uncalcified fibrocartilage was more prominent around large spurs. Endochondral, intramembranous and chondroidal ossification all contributed to spur formation and growth, but cell hypertrophy and florid vascular invasion of a cellular calcified cartilage, typical of endochondral ossification, were not conspicuous features.
Conclusion: Entheseal new bone formation occurs by a combination of 3 methods of ossification. However, endochondral ossification was atypical and differed from that seen in the normal development of cartilage bones or during fracture healing. How the inflammatory process modulates these processes could lead to a better understanding of entheseal new bone formation in SpA.