Bone block augmentation from the iliac crest for treatment of deep osteochondral defects of the knee resembles biomechanical properties of the subchondral bone

  • S. Grechenig
  • Michael WorlicekEmail author
  • R. Penzkofer
  • F. Zeman
  • R. Kujat
  • P. Heiss
  • G. Pattappa
  • J. Zellner
  • P. Angele



Bone block augmentation from the iliac crest can be used for reconstruction of the osteochondral unit to restore the underlying subchondral bone upon restoration of the cartilaginous layer via matrix-induced chondrocyte transplantation. To critically understand the successful restoration of the defect, biomechanical and histological analysis of the implanted bone blocks is required. The aim of the study was to analyse the ability of the bone block technique to restore huge bone defects by mimicking the physiological subchondral zone.


The experiments were performed using lateral femoral condyles and iliac crest bone grafts from the same cadavers (n = 6) preserved using the Thiel method. CT scans were made to evaluate bone pathology. Bone mineral density of all specimens was evaluated in the femoral head prior to testing. A series of tests were conducted for each pair of specimens. A static compression test was performed using an electro dynamic testing machine with maximal strength and failure behavior analyzed. Biomechanical tests were performed in the medial–lateral direction for iliac crest and for femoral condyles with and without removal of the cartilage layer. Histological analysis was performed on decalcified specimens for comparison of the condyle at lesion site and the graft.


No significant difference in failure load could be found for iliac crest (53.3–180.5 N) and femoral condyle samples upon cartilage removal (38.5–175.1 N) (n.s.). The femoral condyles with an intact cartilage layer showed significantly higher loads (118.3–260.4N) compared to the other groups indicating that native or regenerated cartilage can further increase the failure load (p < 0.05). Bone mineral density significantly influenced failure load in all study groups (p < 0.05). Histological similarity of the cancellous bone in the femoral condyle and in the iliac crest was observed. However, within the subchondral zone, there was a higher density of sponge like organized trabeculae in the bone samples from the iliac crest. Tide mark was only detected at the osteochondral interface in femoral condyles.


This study demonstrated that, bone blocks derived from the iliac crest allow a biomechanical appropriate and stable restoration of huge bony defects by resembling the subchondral zone of the femoral condyle. Therefore, bone augmentation from the iliac crest combined with matrix-induced autologous chondrocyte transplantation seems to be a reasonable method to treat these challenging injuries.


Osteochondral defects Bone block augmentation Cancellous bone grafting Chondrocyte transplantation 



The authors are not compensated and there are no institutional subsidies, corporate affiliations, or funding sources supporting this work unless clearly documented and disclosed. The cadaveric specimens were donated by the anatomical institute in Graz. All donors gave their informed consent within the donation of anatomical gift statement during their lifetime.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

According to Austrian law the specimen donors gave their informed consent to science during live time at the Universital Medical Center of Graz, so no IRB approval was necessary.


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Copyright information

© European Society of Sports Traumatology, Knee Surgery, Arthroscopy (ESSKA) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Clinic of Trauma SurgeryUniversity of RegensburgRegensburgGermany
  2. 2.Engineering and TechnologyUniversity of Applied Sciences RegensburgRegensburgGermany
  3. 3.Centre for Clinical StudiesUniversity Hospital RegensburgRegensburgGermany
  4. 4.Clinic of RadiologyUniversity of RegensburgRegensburgGermany

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