Knee immobilization reproduces key arthrofibrotic phenotypes in mice

L. Dagneaux, A. K. Limberg, A. R. Owen, J. W. Bettencourt, A. Dudakovic, B. Bayram, N. M. Gades, J. Sanchez-Sotelo, D. J. Berry, A. van Wijnen, M. E. Morrey, M. P. Abdel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Aims As has been shown in larger animal models, knee immobilization can lead to arthrofibrotic phenotypes. Our study included 168 C57BL/6J female mice, with 24 serving as controls, and 144 undergoing a knee procedure to induce a contracture without osteoarthritis (OA). Methods Experimental knees were immobilized for either four weeks (72 mice) or eight weeks (72 mice), followed by a remobilization period of zero weeks (24 mice), two weeks (24 mice), or four weeks (24 mice) after suture removal. Half of the experimental knees also received an intra-articular injury. Biomechanical data were collected to measure passive extension angle (PEA). Histological data measuring area and thickness of posterior and anterior knee capsules were collected from knee sections. Results Experimental knees immobilized for four weeks demonstrated mean PEAs of 141°, 72°, and 79° after zero, two, and four weeks of remobilization (n = 6 per group), respectively. Experimental knees demonstrated reduced PEAs after two weeks (p < 0.001) and four weeks (p < 0.0001) of remobilization compared to controls. Following eight weeks of immobilization, experimental knees exhibited mean PEAs of 82°, 73°, and 72° after zero, two, and four weeks of remobilization, respectively. Histological analysis demonstrated no cartilage degeneration. Similar trends in biomechanical and histological properties were observed when intra-articular violation was introduced. Conclusion This study established a novel mouse model of robust knee contracture without evidence of OA. This was appreciated consistently after eight weeks of immobilization and was irrespective of length of remobilization. As such, this arthrofibrotic model provides opportunities to investigate molecular pathways and therapeutic strategies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)58-71
Number of pages14
JournalBone and Joint Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2023


  • Contracture
  • Fibrosis
  • Genetic predisposition
  • Murine

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine


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