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BACKGROUND: Joints withstand huge forces, but little is known about subchondral pressures and perfusion during loading. We developed an in vitro calf foot model to explore intraosseous pressure (IOP) and subchondral perfusion during weight bearing. METHODS: Freshly culled calf forefeet were perfused with serum. IOP was measured at three sites in the foot using intraosseous needles, pressure transducers, and digital recorders. IOP was measured during perfusion, with and without a tourniquet and with differing weights, including static loading and dynamic loading to resemble walking. RESULTS: IOP varied with perfusion pressure. Static loading increased subchondral IOP whether the bone was non-perfused, perfused, or perfused with a proximal venous tourniquet (p < 0.0001). Under all perfusion states, IOP was proportional to the load (R2 = 0.984). Subchondral IOP often exceeded perfusion pressure. On removal of a load, IOP fell to below the pre-load value. Repetitive loading led to a falling IOP whether the foot was perfused or not. CONCLUSION: Superimposed on a variable background IOP, increased perfusion and physiological loading caused a significant increase in subchondral IOP. Force was thereby transmitted through subchondral bone partly by hydraulic pressure. A falling IOP with repeat loading suggests that there is an intraosseous one-way valve. This offers a new understanding of subchondral perfusion physiology.

Original publication




Journal article


J orthop surg res

Publication Date





Bone fat, Hydraulic, Intraosseous pressure, Marrow, Subchondral perfusion, Valve