Age-related histological changes in calcified cartilage and subchondral bone in femoral heads from healthy humans

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Objective: Age is the most important risk factor for osteoarthritis (OA). It is suggested that changes in subchondral bone and calcified cartilage may occur in early OA. Therefore, the aim was to investigate age-related changes in the femoral head composition. We hypothesise that the thickness of the subchondral bone plate decreases with age, while the thickness of the calcified cartilage increases with age as seen in early-stage OA. Methods: Femoral heads from 29 women (20–74 years) and 32 men (23–78 years), who had died suddenly and unexpectedly, were obtained at autopsy. Individuals with bone or joint diseases or macroscopic abnormal cartilage were excluded. Using design-based stereology, femoral head volume as well as thickness and volume of the calcified cartilage and subchondral bone plate were estimated and correlated to sex and age. Results: The thickness and volume of the subchondral bone plate were not correlated with age. Calcified cartilage thickness and volume correlated positively with age in women, while the femoral head volume was correlated positively with age in men. Conclusion: In human femoral heads obtained from a cross-sectional population without macroscopic OA changes, the thickness of the subchondral bone plate did not change with age, which differs from the thinning seen in early OA. Surprisingly, the age-related changes of the volume and thickness of the calcified cartilage and of the volume of the femoral head were different for women and men. This indicate that cartilage and bone metabolism is sex-specific, which may influence ageing of the hip joint.

Original languageEnglish
Article number115037
JournalBone
Volume129
ISSN8756-3282
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2019

    Research areas

  • Ageing, Calcified cartilage, Osteoarthritis, Sex, Subchondral bone plate

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