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BACKGROUND: Little is known about subchondral perfusion physiology. We developed a 3Rs (Replace, Reduce, Refine) compliant in vitro calf foot model to explore perfusion and intraosseous pressure (IOP). METHODS: Calf feet were catheterised and perfused with serum. IOP was measured at three sites, the metacarpal diaphysis (MCD), metacarpal subchondral epiphysis (MCS) and proximal phalanx diaphysis (PPD) using intraosseous needles with pressure transducers and digital recorders. Fresh (< 4 h post mortem) and old feet (> 4 h post mortem) were perfused at different pressures, with and without a proximal tourniquet. RESULTS: There was a wide range in basal IOP with a mean IOP of 30.0 mmHg, SD 14.4, range 7.6 mmHg to 52.7 mmHg (n = 40 records) in 15 subjects. There was no significant difference between the three sites tested (p = 0.54, 0.12 and 0.051). At each individual site IOP correlated with perfusion pressure (r = 0.993). With a proximal venous tourniquet, IOP increased from 15.1 mmHg (SD 11.3 mmHg) to 44.9 mmHg (SD 24 mmHg), p < 0.0001, n = 9. Filling and emptying curves during perfusion and with using a tourniquet were similar, indicating that the model behaves in an elastic hydrodynamic manner. In fresh feet IOP peaked after about 1 min irrespective of perfusion pressure, possibly due to auto regulation. Older feet showed a continuously rising IOP and became oedematous. There was no significant difference in IOP between fresh and old feet perfused with serum at 150 cms pressure for 1 min. CONCLUSION: Though basal intraosseous pressure varies, IOP behaves predictably. IOP measurements reflect the perfusion microclimate at the individual needle tip. This 3Rs compliant model will be used for further exploration of subchondral perfusion physiology with loading.

Original publication




Journal article


J exp orthop

Publication Date





In vitro model, Intraosseous pressure, Perfusion, Physiology, Subchondral, Tourniquet