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The Bone & Joint Journal
Vol. 102-B, Issue 7 | Pages 904 - 911
1 Jul 2020
Sigmund IK Dudareva M Watts D Morgenstern M Athanasou NA McNally MA


The aim of this study was to evaluate the diagnostic value of preoperative serum CRP, white blood cell count (WBC), percentage of neutrophils (%N), and neutrophil to lymphocyte ratio (NLR) when using the fracture-related infection (FRI) consensus definition.


A cohort of 106 patients having surgery for suspected septic nonunion after failed fracture fixation were studied. Blood samples were collected preoperatively, and the concentration of serum CRP, WBC, and differential cell count were analyzed. The areas under the curve (AUCs) of diagnostic tests were compared using the z-test. Regression trees were constructed and internally cross-validated to derive a simple diagnostic decision tree.

The Bone & Joint Journal
Vol. 101-B, Issue 3 | Pages 246 - 252
1 Mar 2019
Iwata E Scarborough M Bowden G McNally M Tanaka Y Athanasou NA


The aim of this study was to determine the diagnostic utility of histological analysis in spinal biopsies for spondylodiscitis (SD).

Patients and Methods

Clinical features, radiology, results of microbiology, histology, and laboratory investigations in 50 suspected SD patients were evaluated. In 29 patients, the final (i.e. treatment-based) diagnosis was pyogenic SD; in seven patients, the final diagnosis was mycobacterial SD. In pyogenic SD, the neutrophil polymorph (NP) infiltrate was scored semi-quantitatively by determining the mean number of NPs per (×400) high-power field (HPF).

The Bone & Joint Journal
Vol. 100-B, Issue 7 | Pages 966 - 972
1 Jul 2018
Morgenstern M Athanasou NA Ferguson JY Metsemakers W Atkins BL McNally MA


This study aimed to investigate the role of quantitative histological analysis in the diagnosis of fracture-related infection (FRI).

Patients and Methods

The clinical features, microbiology culture results, and histological analysis in 156 surgically treated nonunions were used to stratify the likelihood of associated infection. There were 64 confirmed infected nonunions (one or more confirmatory criteria: pus, sinus, and bacterial growth in two or more samples), 66 aseptic nonunions (no confirmatory criteria), and 26 possibly infected nonunions (pathogen identified from a single specimen and no confirmatory criteria). The histological inflammatory response was assessed by average neutrophil polymorph (NPs) counts per high-power field (HPF) and compared with the established diagnosis.

Bone & Joint Research
Vol. 5, Issue 5 | Pages 162 - 168
1 May 2016
Athanasou NA

Pathological assessment of periprosthetic tissues is important, not only for diagnosis, but also for understanding the pathobiology of implant failure. The host response to wear particle deposition in periprosthetic tissues is characterised by cell and tissue injury, and a reparative and inflammatory response in which there is an innate and adaptive immune response to the material components of implant wear. Physical and chemical characteristics of implant wear influence the nature of the response in periprosthetic tissues and account for the development of particular complications that lead to implant failure, such as osteolysis which leads to aseptic loosening, and soft-tissue necrosis/inflammation, which can result in pseudotumour formation. The innate response involves phagocytosis of implant-derived wear particles by macrophages; this is determined by pattern recognition receptors and results in expression of cytokines, chemokines and growth factors promoting inflammation and osteoclastogenesis; phagocytosed particles can also be cytotoxic and cause cell and tissue necrosis. The adaptive immune response to wear debris is characterised by the presence of lymphoid cells and most likely occurs as a result of a cell-mediated hypersensitivity reaction to cell and tissue components altered by interaction with the material components of particulate wear, particularly metal ions released from cobalt-chrome wear particles.

Cite this article: Professor N. A. Athanasou. The pathobiology and pathology of aseptic implant failure. Bone Joint Res 2016;5:162–168. DOI: 10.1302/2046-3758.55.BJR-2016-0086.

The Bone & Joint Journal
Vol. 95-B, Issue 6 | Pages 793 - 797
1 Jun 2013
Williams DP Pandit HG Athanasou NA Murray DW Gibbons CLMH

The aim of this study was to review the early outcome of the Femoro-Patella Vialla (FPV) joint replacement. A total of 48 consecutive FPVs were implanted between December 2007 and June 2011. Case-note analysis was performed to evaluate the indications, operative histology, operative findings, post-operative complications and reasons for revision. The mean age of the patients was 63.3 years (48.2 to 81.0) and the mean follow-up was 25.0 months (6.1 to 48.9). Revision was performed in seven (14.6%) at a mean of 21.7 months, and there was one re-revision. Persistent pain was observed in three further patients who remain unrevised. The reasons for revision were pain due to progressive tibiofemoral disease in five, inflammatory arthritis in one, and patellar fracture following trauma in one. No failures were related to the implant or the technique. Trochlear dysplasia was associated with a significantly lower rate of revision (5.9% vs 35.7%, p = 0.017) and a lower incidence of revision or persistent pain (11.8% vs 42.9%, p = 0.045).

Focal patellofemoral osteoarthritis secondary to trochlear dysplasia should be considered the best indication for patellofemoral replacement. Standardised radiological imaging, with MRI to exclude overt tibiofemoral disease should be part of the pre-operative assessment, especially for the non-dysplastic knee.

Cite this article: Bone Joint J 2013;95-B:793–7.

The Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery British Volume
Vol. 94-B, Issue 7 | Pages 882 - 888
1 Jul 2012
van der Heijden L Gibbons CLMH Dijkstra PDS Kroep JR van Rijswijk CSP Nout RA Bradley KM Athanasou NA Hogendoorn PCW van de Sande MAJ

Giant cell tumours (GCT) of the synovium and tendon sheath can be classified into two forms: localised (giant cell tumour of the tendon sheath, or nodular tenosynovitis) and diffuse (diffuse-type giant cell tumour or pigmented villonodular synovitis). The former principally affects the small joints. It presents as a solitary slow-growing tumour with a characteristic appearance on MRI and is treated by surgical excision. There is a significant risk of multiple recurrences with aggressive diffuse disease. A multidisciplinary approach with dedicated MRI, histological assessment and planned surgery with either adjuvant radiotherapy or systemic targeted therapy is required to improve outcomes in recurrent and refractory diffuse-type GCT.

Although arthroscopic synovectomy through several portals has been advocated as an alternative to arthrotomy, there is a significant risk of inadequate excision and recurrence, particularly in the posterior compartment of the knee. For local disease partial arthroscopic synovectomy may be sufficient, at the risk of recurrence. For both local and diffuse intra-articular disease open surgery is advised for recurrent disease. Marginal excision with focal disease will suffice, not dissimilar to the treatment of GCT of tendon sheath. For recurrent and extra-articular soft-tissue disease adjuvant therapy, including intra-articular radioactive colloid or moderate-dose external beam radiotherapy, should be considered.

The Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery British Volume
Vol. 92-B, Issue 6 | Pages 787 - 793
1 Jun 2010
Steffen RT Athanasou NA Gill HS Murray DW

The cause of fracture of the femoral neck after hip resurfacing is poorly understood. In order to evaluate the role of avascular necrosis we compared 19 femoral heads retrieved at revision for fracture of the femoral neck and 13 retrieved for other reasons.

We developed a new technique of assessing avascular necrosis in the femoral head by determining the percentage of empty osteocyte lacunae present. Femoral heads retrieved as controls at total hip replacement for osteoarthritis and avascular necrosis had 9% (sd 4; n = 13) and 85% (sd 5; n = 10, p < 0.001) empty lacunae, respectively.

In the fracture group the percentage of empty lacunae was 71% (sd 22); in the other group it was 21% (sd 13). The differences between the groups were highly significant (p < 0.001).

We conclude that fracture after resurfacing of the hip is associated with a significantly greater percentage of empty osteocyte lacunae within the trabecular bone. This indicates established avascular necrosis and suggests that damage to the blood supply at the time of surgery is a potent risk factor for fracture of the femoral neck after hip resurfacing.

The Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery British Volume
Vol. 91-B, Issue 1 | Pages 119 - 123
1 Jan 2009
Benson RT McDonnell SM Rees JL Athanasou NA Carr AJ

We assessed the predictive value of the macroscopic and detailed microscopic appearance of the coracoacromial ligament, subacromial bursa and rotator-cuff tendon in 20 patients undergoing subacromial decompression for impingement in the absence of full-thickness tears of the rotator cuff. Histologically, all specimens had features of degenerative change and oedema in the extracellular matrix. Inflammatory cells were seen, but there was no evidence of chronic inflammation. However, the outcome was not related to cell counts.

At three months the mean Oxford shoulder score had improved from 29.2 (20 to 40) to 39.4 (28 to 48) (p < 0.0001) and at six months to 45.5 (36 to 48) (p < 0.0001). At six months, although all patients had improved, the seven patients with a hooked acromion had done so to a less extent than those with a flat or curved acromion judged by their mean Oxford shoulder scores of 43.5 and 46.5 respectively (p = 0.046). All five patients with partial-thickness tears were within this group and demonstrated less improvement than the patients with no tear (mean Oxford shoulder scores 43.2 and 46.4, respectively, p = 0.04). These findings imply that in the presence of a partial-thickness tear subacromial decompression may require additional specific treatment to the rotator cuff if the outcome is to be improved further.

The Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery British Volume
Vol. 89-B, Issue 7 | Pages 928 - 932
1 Jul 2007
Hand GCR Athanasou NA Matthews T Carr AJ

We treated 22 patients with a diagnosis of primary frozen shoulder resistant to conservative treatment by manipulation under anaesthetic and arthroscopic release of the rotator interval, at a mean time from onset of 15 months (3 to 36). Biopsies were taken from this site and histological and immunocytochemical analysis was performed to identify the types of cell present. The tissue was characterised by the presence of fibroblasts, proliferating fibroblasts and chronic inflammatory cells. The infiltrate of chronic inflammatory cells was predominantly made up of mast cells, with T cells, B cells and macrophages also present.

The pathology of frozen shoulder includes a chronic inflammatory response with fibroblastic proliferation which may be immunomodulated.

The Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery British Volume
Vol. 88-B, Issue 4 | Pages 489 - 495
1 Apr 2006
Matthews TJW Hand GC Rees JL Athanasou NA Carr AJ

We have studied cellular and vascular changes in different stages of full thickness tears of the rotator cuff. We examined biopsies from the supraspinatus tendon in 40 patients with chronic rotator cuff tears who were undergoing surgery and compared them with biopsies from four uninjured subscapularis tendons. Morphological and immunocytochemical methods using monoclonal antibodies directed against leucocytes, macrophages, mast cells, proliferative and vascular markers were used.

Histological changes indicative of repair and inflammation were most evident in small sized rotator cuff tears with increased fibroblast cellularity and intimal hyperplasia, together with increased expression of leucocyte and vascular markers. These reparative and inflammatory changes diminished as the size of the rotator cuff tear increased. Marked oedema and degeneration was seen in large and massive tears, which more often showed chondroid metaplasia and amyloid deposition. There was no association between the age of the patient and the duration of symptoms. In contrast, large and massive tears showed no increase in the number of inflammatory cells and blood vessels.

Small sized rotator cuff tears retained the greatest potential to heal, showing increased fibroblast cellularity, blood vessel proliferation and the presence of a significant inflammatory component. Tissue from large and massive tears is of such a degenerative nature that it may be a significant cause of re-rupture after surgical repair and could make healing improbable in this group.

The Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery British Volume
Vol. 87-B, Issue 3 | Pages 320 - 323
1 Mar 2005
Little CP Ruiz AL Harding IJ McLardy-Smith P Gundle R Murray DW Athanasou NA

We present the histological findings of bone retrieved from beneath the femoral components of failed metal-on-metal hip resurfacing arthroplasties. Of a total of 377 patients who underwent resurfacing arthroplasty, 13 required revision; for fracture of the femoral neck in eight, loosening of a component in three and for other reasons in two. None of these cases had shown histological evidence of osteonecrosis in the femoral bone at the time of the initial implantation.

Bone from the remnant of the femoral head showed changes of osteonecrosis in all but one case at revision. In two cases of fracture which occurred within a week of implantation, the changes were compatible with early necrosis of the edge of the fracture. In the remaining six fractures, there were changes of established osteonecrosis. In all but one of the non-fracture cases, patchy osteonecrosis was seen.

We conclude that histological evidence of osteonecrosis is a common finding in failed resurfaced hips. Given that osteonecrosis is extensive in resurfaced femoral heads which fail by fracture, it is likely to play a role in the causation of these fractures.

The Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery British Volume
Vol. 84-B, Issue 7 | Pages 1000 - 1003
1 Sep 2002
Gibbons CLMH Khwaja HA Cole AS Cooke PH Athanasou NA

Giant-cell tumour of the tendon sheath (GCT-TS) is a benign solitary tumour which usually arises in the limbs. It occurs most often in the hand where local recurrence after excision has been reported in up to 45% of cases. It is less common in the foot where the biological behaviour and risk of local recurrence have not been defined. We have studied 17 cases of GCT-TS of the foot and ankle in which treatment was by excision. Fifteen presented as a solitary, painless, slow-growing soft-tissue swelling. One lesion was associated with sensory deficit of a digital nerve and one with pain on walking. Thirteen cases originated from the periarticular tendon-sheath complex of the small joints of the toes and four from the capsule or long tendons of the ankle. A correct preoperative diagnosis was made in only three cases. MRI proved to be the most useful preoperative investigation as GCT-TS has a characteristic appearance which allows planned local excision to be carried out. None of the patients with histologically confirmed GCT-TS required further surgery. There was no local recurrence in 15 patients who were available for follow-up at a mean of 85 months.

The Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery British Volume
Vol. 84-B, Issue 3 | Pages 452 - 456
1 Apr 2002
Yang TT Sabokbar A Gibbons CLMH Athanasou NA

The cellular mechanisms which account for the formation of osteoclasts and bone resorption associated with enlarging benign and malignant mesenchymal tumours of bone are uncertain. Osteoclasts are marrow-derived, multinucleated, bone-resorbing cells which express a macrophage phenotype. We have determined whether tumour-associated macrophages (TAMs) isolated from benign and malignant mesenchymal tumours are capable of differentiating into osteoclasts. Macrophages were cultured on both coverslips and dentine slices for up to 21 days with UMR 106 osteoblastic cells in the presence of 1,25 dihydroxyvitamin D3 (1,25(OH)2D3) and human macrophage colony-stimulating factor (M-CSF) or, in the absence of UMR 106 cells, with M-CSF and RANK ligand.

In all tumours, the formation of osteoclasts from CD14-positive macrophages was shown by the formation of tartrate-resistant-acid-phosphatase and vitronectin-receptor-positive multinucleated cells which were capable of carrying out lacunar resorption. These results indicate that the tumour osteolysis associated with the growth of mesenchymal tumours in bone is likely to be due in part to the differentiation of mononuclear phagocyte osteoclast precursors which are present in the TAM population of these lesions.

The Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery British Volume
Vol. 83-B, Issue 4 | Pages 561 - 564
1 May 2001
Cole AS Cordiner-Lawrie S Carr AJ Athanasou NA

Age-related localised deposition of amyloid in connective tissue has been found in degenerative articular and periarticular tissue. Biopsies of the supraspinatus tendon of 28 patients undergoing repair of the rotator cuff were analysed histologically for the presence of localised deposition of amyloid. There was a long history of impingement in 20 patients, and eight patients had suffered an acute traumatic tear with no preceding symptoms. Localised deposition of amyloid identified by Congo Red staining was detected in 16 samples (57%). Amyloid was present in 14 (70%) of the degenerative tears, but in only two (25%) of the acute tears. Immunohistochemical staining showed that the amyloid deposits were positive for P component, but negative for κ and λ light chains, prealbumin, and β2 microglobulin. Critical electrolyte staining revealed highly-sulphated glycosaminoglycans at sites of deposition of amyloid. The presence of localised deposition of amyloid in tears of the rotator cuff is likely to represent irreversible structural changes. These findings support the theory that impingement and tears are due to intrinsic degenerative changes within the tendons of the rotator cuff.

The Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery British Volume
Vol. 82-B, Issue 6 | Pages 892 - 900
1 Aug 2000
Neale SD Fujikawa Y Sabokbar A Gundle R Murray DW Graves SE Howie DW Athanasou NA

Mononuclear osteoclast precursors are present in the wear-particle-associated macrophage infiltrate found in the membrane surrounding loose implants. These cells are capable of differentiating into osteoclastic bone-resorbing cells when co-cultured with the rat osteoblast-like cell line, UMR 106, in the presence of 1,25(OH)2 vitamin D3. In order to develop an in vitro model of osteoclast differentiation which more closely parallels the cellular microenvironment at the bone-implant interface in situ, we determined whether osteoblast-like human bone-derived cells were capable of supporting the differentiation of osteoclasts from arthroplasty-derived cells and analysed the humoral conditions required for this to occur.

Long-term co-culture of arthroplasty-derived cells and human trabecular-bone-derived cells (HBDCs) resulted in the formation of numerous tartrate-resistant-acid-phosphatase (TRAP) and vitronectin-receptor (VNR)-positive multinucleated cells capable of extensive resorption of lacunar bone. The addition of 1,25(OH)2 vitamin D3 was not required for the formation of osteoclasts and bone resorption. During the formation there was release of substantial levels of M-CSF and PGE2. Exogenous PGE2 (10−8 to 10−6M) was found to stimulate strongly the resorption of osteoclastic bone. Our study has shown that HBDCs are capable of supporting the formation of osteoclasts from mononuclear phagocyte precursors present in the periprosthetic tissues surrounding a loose implant. The release of M-CSF and PGE2 by activated cells at the bone-implant interface may be important for the formation of osteoclasts at sites of pathological bone resorption associated with aseptic loosening.

The Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery British Volume
Vol. 81-B, Issue 3 | Pages 552 - 554
1 May 1999
Crawford R Puddle B Hunt N Athanasou NA

We reviewed histologically the incidence and pathogenesis of the deposition of calcium pyrophosphate dihydrate (CPPD) crystals in the pseudocapsule, femoral and acetabular membranes and periprosthetic tissue at revision of 789 cases of failed total hip replacement. In 13, periprosthetic tissues were found to have deposits of CPPD crystals in areas of cartilaginous metaplasia; four also showed evidence of localised deposition of amyloid. None of the patients had a history of chondrocalcinosis in the hip or other joints. Cartilaginous metaplasia and other changes in periprosthetic tissues may predispose to the deposition of CPPD and associated localised amyloid.

The Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery British Volume
Vol. 81-B, Issue 2 | Pages 333 - 335
1 Mar 1999
Palmer SH Gibbons CLMH Athanasou NA

We analysed the histological findings in 1146 osteoarthritic femoral heads which would have been considered suitable for bone-bank donation to determine whether pathological lesions, other than osteoarthritis, were present. We found that 91 femoral heads (8%) showed evidence of disease. The most common conditions noted were chondrocalcinosis (63 cases), avascular necrosis (13), osteomas (6) and malignant tumours (one case of low-grade chondrosarcoma and two of well-differentiated lymphocytic lymphoma). There were two with metabolic bone disease (Paget’s disease and hyperparathyroid bone disease) and four with inflammatory (rheumatoid-like) arthritis.

Our findings indicate that occult pathological conditions are common and it is recommended that histological examination of this regularly used source of bone allograft should be included as part of the screening protocol for bone-bank collection.

The Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery British Volume
Vol. 80-B, Issue 6 | Pages 990 - 993
1 Nov 1998
Crawford R Sabokbar A Wulke A Murray DW Athanasou NA

We present a case in which the growth of an intraosseous cyst arising from the proximal tibiofibular joint appeared to have been increased by polyethylene wear particles from a medial unicompartmental knee replacement. Histological examination of the cyst wall showed a histiocytic response associated with numerous polyethylene wear particles. This case demonstrates that there is a direct communication between the joint cavity and the cyst. Such communication is probably through openings in the articular cartilage large enough to allow the passage of these particles.

The Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery British Volume
Vol. 79-B, Issue 5 | Pages 849 - 856
1 Sep 1997
Wang W Ferguson DJP Quinn JMW Simpson AHRW Athanasou NA

Abundant implant-derived biomaterial wear particles are generated in aseptic loosening and are deposited in periprosthetic tissues in which they are phagocytosed by mononuclear and multinucleated macrophage-like cells. It has been stated that the multinucleated cells which contain wear particles are not bone-resorbing osteoclasts. To investigate the validity of this claim we isolated human osteoclasts from giant-cell tumours of bone and rat osteoclasts from long bones. These were cultured on glass coverslips and on cortical bone slices in the presence of particles of latex, PMMA and titanium. Osteoclast phagocytosis of these particle types was shown by light microscopy, energy-dispersive X-ray analysis and SEM. Giant cells containing phagocytosed particles were seen to be associated with the formation of resorption lacunae. Osteoclasts containing particles were also calcitonin-receptor-positive and showed an inhibitory response to calcitonin.

Our findings demonstrate that osteoclasts are capable of phagocytosing particles of a wide range of size, including particles of polymeric and metallic bio-materials found in periprosthetic tissues, and that after particle phagocytosis, they remain fully functional, hormone-responsive, bone-resorbing cells.

The Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery British Volume
Vol. 79-B, Issue 1 | Pages 129 - 134
1 Jan 1997
Sabokbar A Fujikawa Y Murray DW Athanasou NA

A heavy infiltrate of foreign-body macrophages is commonly seen in the fibrous membrane which surrounds an aseptically loose cemented implant. This is in response to particles of polymethylmethacrylate (PMMA) bone cement and other biomaterials. We have previously shown that monocytes and macrophages responding to particles of bone cement are capable of differentiating into osteoclastic cells which resorb bone.

To determine whether the radio-opaque additives barium sulphate (BaSO4) and zirconium dioxide (ZrO2) influence this process, particles of PMMA with and without these agents were added to mouse monocytes and cocultured with osteoblast-like cells on bone slices. Osteoclast differentiation, as shown by the presence of the osteoclast-associated enzyme tartrate-resistant acid phosphatase (TRAP) and lacunar bone resorption, was observed in all cocultures.

The addition of PMMA alone to these cocultures caused no increase in TRAP expression or bone resorption relative to control cocultures. Adding PMMA particles containing BaSO4 or ZrO2, however, caused an increase in TRAP expression and a highly significant increase in bone resorption. Particles containing BaSO4 were associated with 50% more bone resorption than those containing ZrO2.

Our results suggest that radio-opaque agents in bone cement may contribute to the bone resorption of aseptic loosening by enhancing macrophage-osteoclast differentiation, and that PMMA containing is BaSO4 likely to be associated with more osteolysis than that containing ZrO2.