Background: Ischemic necrosis of the femoral head can be induced surgically in the piglet. We used this model to assess femoral head deformation and repair in vivo by sequential magnetic resonance imaging and by correlating end-stage findings with histologic assessments.
Methods: Ischemic necrosis of the femoral head was induced in ten three-week-old piglets by tying a silk ligature around the base of the femoral neck (intracapsular) and cutting the ligamentum teres. We used magnetic resonance imaging with the piglets under general anesthesia to study the hips at forty-eight hours and at one, two, four, and eight weeks. Measurements on magnetic resonance images in the midcoronal plane of the involved and control sides at each time documented the femoral head height, femoral head width, superior surface cartilage height, and femoral neck-shaft angle. Histologic assessments were done at the time of killing.
Results: Complete ischemia of the femoral head was identified in all involved femora by magnetic resonance imaging at forty-eight hours. Revascularization began at the periphery of the femoral head as early as one week and was underway in all by two weeks. At eight weeks, magnetic resonance imaging and histologic analysis showed deformation of the femoral head and variable tissue deposition. Tissue responses included (1) vascularized fibroblastic ingrowth with tissue resorption and cartilage, intramembranous bone, and mixed fibro-osseous or fibro-cartilaginous tissue synthesis and (2) resumption of endochondral bone growth. At eight weeks, the mean femoral head measurements (and standard error of the mean) for the control compared with the ligated femora were 10.4 ± 0.4 and 4.8 ± 0.4 mm, respectively, for height; 26.7 ± 0.8 and 31.2 ± 0.8 mm for diameter; 1.1 ± 0.1 and 2.3 ± 0.1 mm for cartilage thickness; and 151° ± 2° and 135° ± 2° for the femoral neck-shaft angle. Repeated-measures mixed-model analysis of variance revealed highly significant effects of ligation in each parameter (p < 0.0001).
Conclusions: Magnetic resonance imaging allows for the assessment of individual hips at sequential time periods to follow deformation and repair. There was a variable tissue response, and histologic assessment at the time of killing was shown to correlate with the evolving and varying magnetic resonance imaging signal intensities. Femoral head height on the ischemic side from one week onward was always less than the initial control value and continually decreased with time, indicating collapse as well as slowed growth. Increased femoral head width occurred relatively late (four to eight weeks), indicating cartilage model overgrowth concentrated at the periphery.
Clinical Relevance: Femoral head deformation and internal tissue deposition patterns can be followed accurately in vivo by magnetic resonance imaging.