Pathology of articular cartilage and synovial membrane from elbow joints with and without degenerative joint disease in domestic cats

Freire M, Meuten D, Lascelles D. Vet Pathol. 2014 Sep; 51 (5): 968-78.

The elbow joint is one of the feline appendicular joints most commonly and severely affected by degenerative joint disease. The macroscopic and histopathological lesions of the elbow joints of 30 adult cats were evaluated immediately after euthanasia.

Macroscopic evidence of degenerative joint disease was found in 22 of 30 cats (39 elbow joints) (73.33% cats; 65% elbow joints), and macroscopic cartilage erosion ranged from mild fibrillation to complete ulceration of the hyaline cartilage with exposure of the subchondral bone. Distribution of the lesions in the cartilage indicated the presence of medial compartment joint disease (most severe lesions located in the medial coronoid process of the ulna and medial humeral epicondyle).

Synovitis scores were mild overall and correlated only weakly with macroscopic cartilage damage. Intra-articular osteochondral fragments either free or attached to the synovium were found in 10 joints. Macroscopic or histologic evidence of a fragmented coronoid process was not found even in those cases with intra-articular osteochondral fragments.

Lesions observed in these animals are most consistent with synovial osteochondromatosis secondary to degenerative joint disease. The pathogenesis for the medial compartmentalization of these lesions has not been established, but a fragmented medial coronoid process or osteochondritis dissecans does not appear to play a role.