Osteochondral resurfacing implants are a promising treatment for focal cartilage defects. Several implant-factors may affect the clinical outcome of this treatment, such as the implant material stiffness and the accuracy of implant placement, known to be challenging. In general, softer implants are expected to be more accommodating for implant misalignment than stiffer implants, and motion is expected to increase effects from implant misalignment and stiffness. 3D finite element models of cartilage/cartilage contact were employed in which implantation angle (0°, 5°, 10°) and implant material stiffness (E = 5 MPa, 100 MPa, 2 GPa) were varied. A creep loading (0.6 MPa) was simulated, followed by a sliding motion. Creep loading resulted in low maximum collagen strains of 2.5% in the intact case compared to 11.7% with an empty defect. Implants mostly positively affected collagen strains, deviatoric strains, and hydrostatic pressures in the adjacent cartilage, but these effects were superior for correct alignment (0°). The main effect of implant misalignment was bulging of opposing cartilage tissue into the gap caused by the misalignment. This increased collagen strains and hydrostatic pressures. Deviatoric strains were increased adjacent to the gap. Subsequent sliding initially increased strains for a stiff, misaligned implant, but generally sliding decreased strains. In conclusion, implants can decrease the detrimental effect of defects, but correct implant alignment is crucial, more than implant material stiffness. Implant misalignment causes a gap, causing potentially damaging cartilage deformation during prolonged loading, for example, standing, even for soft implants. Mild motion may positively affect the cartilage.
Full Access Link: Journal of Orthopaedic Research