To evaluate the utility and limitations of optical coherence tomography (OCT) for immediate, high-resolution structural analysis of rabbit articular repair tissue following chondrocyte implantation without excising or sectioning the specimen.Full thickness articular cartilage defects were created in the patellar grooves of 30 adult rabbit knee joints. Allogenic cultured chondrocytes embedded in collagen gels were implanted into the surgical defects. A periosteal patch was then sutured over the chondrocyte-collagen composites. Six animals per time point were sacrificed at 2, 4, 8, 12 and 24 weeks after surgery. The repair tissues were sequentially analysed by arthroscopic surface imaging, OCT, and histology. The resulting images were compared to determine qualitative and quantitative features of surface roughness, repair tissue integration, and micro-architecture. Statistical analysis was performed using Student's t -testing and linear regression.OCT was able to identify the bone and cartilage interface in normal rabbit articular cartilage and regenerated cartilage at 24 weeks post chondrocyte implantation. OCT was able to identify hypertrophy at 4 and 8 weeks, and subtle surface fibrillations at 24 weeks, comparable with histological analysis at low magnification (20x). More importantly, OCT was able to detect embedded gaps between the repair tissue and surrounding host cartilage.Close correlation was observed between OCT and histological analysis of morphological features important to the assessment of articular cartilage repair. These results demonstrate that OCT is capable of providing immediate 'optical biopsy' of the rabbit articular cartilage repair tissue without damaging the specimen, and suggest that this new technique, if integrated with an arthroscope, can potentially be used in longitudinal studies of articular cartilage repair in vivo.
View details for DOI 10.1053/joca.2002.0862
View details for PubMedID 12554127