Systematic Postoperative Assessment of a Minimally-Invasive Sheep Model for the Treatment of Osteochondral Defects.
To assess the clinical course of a sheep stifle joint model for osteochondral (OC) defects, medial femoral condyles (MFC) were exposed without patella luxation using medial parapatellar skin (3-4 cm) and deep incisions (2-3 cm). Two defects (7 mm diameter; 10 mm depth; OC punch) were left empty or refilled with osteochondral autologous transplantation cylinders (OATS) and explanted after six weeks. Incision-to-suture time, anesthesia time, and postoperative wound or impairment scores were compared to those in sham-operated animals. Implant performance was assessed by X-ray, micro-computed tomography, histology, and immunohistology (collagens 1, 2; aggrecan). There were no surgery-related infections or patellar luxations. Operation, anesthesia, and time to complete stand were short (0.5, 1.4, and 1.5 h, respectively). The wound trauma score was low (0.4 of maximally 4; day 7). Empty-defect and OATS animals reached an impairment score of 0 significantly later than sham animals (7.4 and 4.0 days, respectively, versus 1.5 days). Empty defects showed incomplete healing and dedifferentiation/heterotopic differentiation; OATS-filled defects displayed advanced bone healing with remaining cartilage gaps and orthotopic expression of bone and cartilage markers. Minimally-invasive, medial parapatellar surgery of OC defects on the sheep MFC allows rapid and low-trauma recovery and appears well-suited for implant testing.