Objective - To investigate in vitro effects of radial shock waves on membrane permeability, viability, and structure of chondrocytes and articular cartilage. Sample population - Cartilage explants obtained from the third metacarpal and metatarsal bones of 6 horses. Procedure - Equine cartilage was subjected to radial shock waves and then maintained as explants in culture for 48 hours. Treatment groups consisted of a negative control group; application of 500, 2,000, and 4,000 impulses by use of a convex handpiece (group A); and application of 500, 2,000, and 4,000 impulses by use of a concave handpiece (group B). Effects on explant structure were evaluated by use of environmental scanning electron microscopy (ESEM). Membrane permeability was determined by release of lactate dehydrogenase (LDH). Chondrocyte viability was assessed by use of vital cell staining. Comparisons of LDH activity and nonviable cell percentages were performed by ANOVA. Results - Cell membrane permeability increased significantly after application of 2,000 and 4,000 impulses in groups A and B. A significant decrease in cell viability was observed for application of 4,000 impulses in explants of group A. There was no detectable damage to integrity of cartilage explants observed in any treatment group by use of ESEM. Conclusions and clinical relevance - Radial shock waves do not appear to structurally damage articular cartilage but do impact chondrocyte viability and membrane permeability. Caution should be exercised when extremely high periarticular pulse doses are used until additional studies can determine the long-term outcome of these effects and appropriate periarticular treatment regimens can be validated.
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