Correlation of Synovial Fluid Biomarkers with Cartilage Pathology and Associated Outcomes in Knee Arthroscopy

Vanessa G. Cuéllar, Jason M. Cuéllar, Thorsten Kirsch, Eric J. Strauss

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose To correlate the intraoperative concentrations of 20 synovial fluid biomarkers with preoperative symptoms, intraoperative findings, and postoperative outcomes in patients undergoing knee arthroscopy, with comparisons made to samples obtained from asymptomatic knees. Methods Synovial fluid samples were obtained from 81 patients undergoing knee arthroscopy meeting the inclusion criteria, which included 70 samples from operative knees and 32 samples from contralateral knees. Preoperatively, baseline data obtained from clinical questionnaires including a visual analog scale (VAS) score, the Lysholm score, and the Knee Injury and Osteoarthritis Outcome Score-Physical Function Short Form were recorded. Synovial fluid was collected from both the operative knee and asymptomatic contralateral knee. Synovial fluid was stored with a protease inhibitor at -80°C until analysis. Intraoperative findings, procedures performed, and International Cartilage Repair Society (ICRS) cartilage status scores in all operative knees were documented. The concentrations of the following 20 biomarkers were measured using a multiplex magnetic bead immunoassay: matrix metalloproteinase (MMP) 3; MMP-13; tissue inhibitor of metalloproteinase (TIMP) 1; TIMP-2; TIMP-3; TIMP-4; fibroblast growth factor 2; eotaxin; interferon γ; interleukin (IL) 10; platelet-derived growth factor BB; IL-1 receptor antagonist; IL-1β; IL-6; monocyte chemotactic protein 1 (MCP-1); macrophage inflammatory protein 1α; macrophage inflammatory protein 1β; RANTES (regulated upon activation, normal T cell expressed and secreted); tumor necrosis factor α; and vascular endothelial growth factor. Clinical outcome scores were obtained in 83% of patients at a mean of 17 months' follow-up postoperatively. Analysis of variance and Pearson correlation analysis were performed to determine statistical significance between preoperative data, intraoperative findings, postoperative outcomes, and synovial fluid biomarker concentrations compared with asymptomatic contralateral knees. Results Analysis was performed on 70 operative and 32 contralateral samples. There were strong positive correlations between ICRS score and age, symptom duration, VAS score, and Knee Injury and Osteoarthritis Outcome Score-Physical Function Short Form. A strong positive correlation was found between MCP-1 and IL-6 concentrations, intraoperative ICRS score, and continued pain at the time of final follow-up. MCP-1 and IL-6 were the strongest predictors of severe cartilage lesions, whereas IL-1 receptor antagonist was inversely related. MMP-3 levels were consistently elevated in all operative samples and directly correlated to increased preoperative VAS scores. RANTES, vascular endothelial growth factor, and platelet-derived growth factor BB were the strongest predictors of postoperative improvement at final follow-up regardless of injury and cartilage status. Conclusions Synovial fluid biomarkers have the capacity to reflect the intra-articular environment before surgery and potentially predict postoperative clinical outcomes. Recognition of key molecular players may yield future therapeutic targets, and large clinical trials exploring these discoveries are anticipated. Level of Evidence Level III, therapeutic case-control study.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)475-485
Number of pages11
JournalArthroscopy - Journal of Arthroscopic and Related Surgery
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine


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