Fresh osteochondral allograft transplantation has been an effective treatment option with promising long-term clinical outcomes for focal posttraumatic defects in the knee for young, active individuals. We examined histologic features of 35 fresh osteochondral allograft specimens retrieved at the time of subsequent graft revision, osteotomy, or TKA. Graft survival time ranged from 1 to 25 years based on their time to reoperation. Histologic features of early graft failures were lack of chondrocyte viability and loss of matrix cationic staining. Histologic features of late graft failures were fracture through the graft, active and incomplete remodeling of the graft bone by the host bone, and resorption of the graft tissue by synovial inflammatory activity at graft edges. Histologic features associated with long-term allograft survival included viable chondrocytes, functional preservation of matrix, and complete replacement of the graft bone with the host bone. Given chondrocyte viability, long-term allograft survival depends on graft stability by rigid fixation of host bone to graft bone. With the stable osseous graft base, the hyaline cartilage portion of the allograft can survive and function for 25 years or more.
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