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Morphological aspects of pathology 

Morphological aspects of pathology
Morphological aspects of pathology

Laura A. Wyatt

and Michael Doherty

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date: 23 June 2021

Osteoarthritis (OA) is the commonest condition to affect synovial joints, but although any synovial joint can be affected, most studies of pathology relate to large joints (knees and hips). OA involves the whole joint and pathological alterations typically occur in all joint tissues. Established OA is characterized by a mixture of tissue loss and new tissue production resulting in focal loss of articular hyaline cartilage together with bone remodelling and osteophyte formation. Articular cartilage may show increased thickness in the earliest stages of OA with increased numbers of hypertrophic chondrocytes, followed by progressive decline in matrix components, thickness, and chondrocyte number. Surface fibrillation and vertical clefts become evident in mid- to end-stage OA and eventual complete loss of cartilage can occur, predominantly in maximum load-bearing regions, with subsequent eburnation and furrowing of bone. Bone remodelling may lead to alteration of bone shape and variable trabecular thickness in subchondral bone, whilst subchondral microfractures may result in localized osteonecrosis, fibrosis, and ‘cysts’. Endochondral ossification of new fibrocartilage produced predominantly at the joint margin produces characteristic bony osteophytes. The synovium shows areas of hyperplasia with varying amounts of lymphocyte aggregates and inclusion of osteochondral ‘loose’ bodies, and the outer fibrous capsule thickens to help stabilize the compromised joint. Synovial fluid increases in volume but decreases in viscosity. Periarticular changes include type II muscle atrophy and enthesophytes.

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