Objective: Although anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury is a well-recognized risk factor for developing knee post-traumatic osteoarthritis (PTOA), the process in the patellofemoral (PF) joint after ACL injury is still under-researched. Our aim was to investigate the perfusion changes in PF subchondral bone marrow in the rat ACL transection (ACLX) model of PTOA using dynamic contrast-enhanced magnetic resonance imaging (DCE-MRI). Design: Eighteen male Sprague Dawley rats were randomly separated into three groups (n = 6 each group): a normal control group and groups receiving ACLX and sham-surgery, respectively, in the right knee. Perfusion parameters in the patellar and femoral subchondral bone marrows of all rats were measured on DCE-MRI at 0, 4, 8, and 16 weeks after respective treatment. After the last MRI at week 16, the rats were sacrificed and their right knees were harvested for histologic examination. In addition, to observe the long-term histologic change in PF joints, 9 additional rats (n = 3 in each group) were included and sacrificed at week 32 for histologic examination. Results: In the ACLX group vs the sham and control groups, the perfusion parameters were significantly changed in both patellar and femoral subchondral bone marrows at week 16. Histologic examination revealed cartilage defects in ACLX rats at 32 weeks after surgery. Conclusions: These data point to a possible functional relationship between subchondral bone marrow perfusion abnormalities and cartilage breakdown in PTOA. Moreover, the perfusion parameters derived from DCE-MRI can potentially serve as biomarkers of early OA.
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