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Damage to the articular cartilage does occur, on occasion, during the course of diagnostic arthroscopy and arthroscopic surgery. Because of this, we decided to do an arthroscopic gross and histologic study of the alterations in the articular cartilage and the underlying bone that we produced in the joints of dogs. Depending upon the instruments used and the depth of the lesion created, various types of lesions were produced in the cartilage, including track-like fissures, patch-like defects, and even superficial damage to the subchondral bone. Superficial lesions reaching only to the transitional zone were repaired by a smoothing of the edges of the defects. In the deeper lesions, repair consisted of a flat fibrous covering with sclerosis of the subchondral bone. These defects were followed for a period of 6 months, and in no case did a complete filling in occur. We realize that this animal experimental study is not a model for human osteoarthritis, but it casts some light on the importance of iatrogenic lesions of the joint. This study was carried out for the purpose of drawing attention to damage of the articular cartilage that can occur during arthroscopic surgery, especially in narrow joint spaces. These findings underline the need for responsible and effective education in the field of diagnostic and therapeutic arthroscopy.
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© 1986 Arthroscopy Association of North America. Published by Elsevier Inc.