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Open Access Research article

Spectrocolorimetric assessment of cartilage plugs after autologous osteochondral grafting: correlations between color indices and histological findings in a rabbit model

Koji Hattori12*, Kota Uematsu2, Yohei Tanikake2, Takashi Habata2, Yasuhito Tanaka2, Hiroshi Yajima2 and Yoshinori Takakura2

Author Affiliations

1 Department of DAIWA HOUSE Indoor Environmental Medicine, Nara Medical University, Kashihara, Nara, Japan

2 Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Nara Medical University, Kashihara, Nara, Japan

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Arthritis Research & Therapy 2007, 9:R88  doi:10.1186/ar2287

Published: 10 September 2007


We investigated the use of a commercial spectrocolorimeter and the application of two color models (L* a* b* colorimetric system and spectral reflectance distribution) to describe and quantify cartilage plugs in a rabbit model of osteochondral autografting. Osteochondral plugs were removed and then replaced in their original positions in Japanese white rabbits. The rabbits were sacrificed at 4 or 12 weeks after the operation and cartilage samples were assessed using a spectrocolorimeter. The samples were retrospectively divided into two groups on the basis of the histological findings (group H: hyaline cartilage, successful; group F: fibrous tissue or fibrocartilage, failure) and investigated for possible significant differences in the spectrocolorimetric analyses between the two groups. Moreover, the relationships between the spectrocolorimetric indices and the Mankin histological score were examined. In the L* a* b* colorimetric system, the L* values were significantly lower in group H than in group F (P = 0.02), whereas the a* values were significantly higher in group H than in group F (P = 0.006). Regarding the spectral reflectance distribution, the spectral reflectance percentage 470 (SRP470) values, as a coincidence index for the spectral reflectance distribution (400 to 470 nm in wavelength) of the cartilage plugs with respect to intact cartilage, were 99.8 ± 6.7% in group H and 119.8 ± 10.6% in group F, and the difference between these values was significant (P = 0.005). Furthermore, the a* values were significantly correlated with the histological score (P = 0.004, r = -0.76). The SRP470 values were also significantly correlated with the histological score (P = 0.01, r = 0.67). Our findings demonstrate the ability of spectrocolorimetric measurements to predict the histological findings of cartilage plugs after autologous osteochondral grafting. In particular, the a* values and SRP470 values can be used to judge the surface condition of an osteochondral plug on the basis of objective data. Therefore, spectrocolorimetry may contribute to orthopedics, rheumatology and related research in arthritis, and arthroscopic use of this method may potentially be preferable for in vivo assessment.