Pulse Lavage Fails to Significantly Reduce Bone Marrow Content in Osteochondral Allografts: A Histological and DNA Quantification Study

Luiz Felipe Ambra, Laura de Girolamo, Andreas H. Gomoll

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Current clinical practice calls for pulse lavage of fresh osteochondral allografts (OCAs) to reduce immunogenicity; however, there is limited evidence of its effectiveness in reducing allogenic bone marrow elements. Purpose: To evaluate the effectiveness of pulse lavage in removing marrow elements from trabecular bone in fresh OCA transplantation. Study Design: Controlled laboratory study. Methods: The authors evaluated 48 fresh OCA plugs with 4 different common sizes (14- and 24-mm diameter, 6- and 10-mm thickness). Within each size group, half of the samples underwent pulse lavage (n = 6) with saline solution and half were left untreated (no lavage; control group, n = 6). For each treatment and size group, 3 samples were analyzed for DNA content as an indicator of the number of residual nucleated cells; the other 3 samples were histologically analyzed to assess the presence and distribution of cells within subchondral bone pores in 3 specific locations within the plug: peripheral, intermediate, and core. Results: Osteochondral plugs treated with pulse lavage did not show a significant decrease in DNA content in comparison with untreated plugs. Overall, histological analysis did not show a significant difference between the treated and untreated groups (P =.23). Subgroup analysis by size demonstrated decreased marrow content in treated versus untreated groups in the thinner plug sizes (14 × 6 mm and 24 × 6 mm). Histological evaluation by zone demonstrated a significant difference between groups only in the peripheral zone (P =.04). Conclusion: Pulse lavage has limited effectiveness in removing marrow elements, in particular in plugs that are larger in diameter and, more importantly, in thickness. Better techniques for subchondral bone treatment are required for more thorough removal of potentially immunogenic marrow elements. Clinical Relevance: OCA transplantation has become an established treatment modality. Unfortunately, OCA is not without limitations, chiefly its mode of failure through inadequate integration of the allograft subchondral bone with subsequent collapse. In an effort to improve integration, current clinical practice calls for pulse lavage to remove allogenic bone marrow from the subchondral bone in hopes of decreasing the immunogenicity of the graft and facilitating revascularization.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2723-2728
Number of pages6
JournalAmerican Journal of Sports Medicine
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - Sep 1 2019


  • allogenic cells
  • DNA quantification
  • osteochondral allograft
  • pulse lavage

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation


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