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Open Access Research article

Kinematic and dynamic gait compensations resulting from knee instability in a rat model of osteoarthritis

Kyle D Allen12, Brian A Mata3, Mostafa A Gabr3, Janet L Huebner4, Samuel B Adams3, Virginia B Kraus4, Daniel O Schmitt5 and Lori A Setton23*

Author Affiliations

1 J. Crayton Pruitt Family Department of Biomedical Engineering, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL, USA

2 Department of Biomedical Engineering, Duke University, Durham, NC, USA

3 Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Duke University Medical Center, Duke University, Durham, NC, USA

4 Department of Medicine, Division of Rheumatology, Duke University Medical Center, Duke University, Durham, NC, USA

5 Department of Evolutionary Anthropology, Duke University, Durham, NC, USA

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Arthritis Research & Therapy 2012, 14:R78  doi:10.1186/ar3801

Published: 17 April 2012

Abstract

Introduction

Osteoarthritis (OA) results in pain and disability; however, preclinical OA models often focus on joint-level changes. Gait analysis is one method used to evaluate both preclinical OA models and OA patients. The objective of this study is to describe spatiotemporal and ground reaction force changes in a rat medial meniscus transection (MMT) model of knee OA and to compare these gait measures with assays of weight bearing and tactile allodynia.

Methods

Sixteen rats were used in the study. The medial collateral ligament (MCL) was transected in twelve Lewis rats (male, 200 to 250 g); in six rats, the medial meniscus was transected, and the remaining six rats served as sham controls. The remaining four rats served as naïve controls. Gait, weight-bearing as measured by an incapacitance meter, and tactile allodynia were assessed on postoperative days 9 to 24. On day 28, knee joints were collected for histology. Cytokine concentrations in the serum were assessed with a 10-plex cytokine panel.

Results

Weight bearing was not affected by sham or MMT surgery; however, the MMT group had decreased mechanical paw-withdrawal thresholds in the operated limb relative to the contralateral limb (P = 0.017). The gait of the MMT group became increasingly asymmetric from postoperative days 9 to 24 (P = 0.020); moreover, MMT animals tended to spend more time on their contralateral limb than their operated limb while walking (P < 0.1). Ground reaction forces confirmed temporal shifts in symmetry and stance time, as the MMT group had lower vertical and propulsive ground reaction forces in their operated limb relative to the contralateral limb, naïve, and sham controls (P < 0.05). Levels of interleukin 6 in the MMT group tended to be higher than naïve controls (P = 0.072). Histology confirmed increased cartilage damage in the MMT group, consistent with OA initiation. Post hoc analysis revealed that gait symmetry, stance time imbalance, peak propulsive force, and serum interleukin 6 concentrations had significant correlations to the severity of cartilage lesion formation.

Conclusion

These data indicate significant gait compensations were present in the MMT group relative to medial collateral ligament (MCL) injury (sham) alone and naïve controls. Moreover, these data suggest that gait compensations are likely driven by meniscal instability and/or cartilage damage, and not by MCL injury alone.