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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Structure and function of synovial joints, with particular reference to the mechanism of their lubrication Piper, Michael Stafford


The structure and physiology of synovial joints has been studied for years. Recent advances in technology and investigative tools have enabled workers to greatly elucidate the nature of these remarkably functional joints. This thesis presents a review of the literature dealing with the morphology and physiology of diarthrodial joints. The embryological development and the gross structure of these joints is presented as is a discussion of the light and electron microscopic features of articular cartilage and synovial membrane. In addition, some of the features of synovial fluid are presented. The results of recent investigation into the biochemistry and metabolism of articular cartilage are discussed. As the main function of synovial joints is to provide painless, controlled motion, much interest has recently focused on the mechanism of lubrication in these joints. A review of the literature concerning the nature of joint lubrication is presented, and a theory of lubrication enhancement by electrical repulsive forces is proposed. This theory was developed from the results of a technique of synovianalysis conducted on a series of 61 samples of synovial fluid. The samples were collected from a series of hospital patients. One group of patients suffered from rheumatoid arthritis, while a second group was comprised of patients suffering from conditions not associated with rheumatoid arthritis. The samples were subjected to analysis using cation sensitive glass electrodes, and the concentrations of ionized sodium and potassium were measured. In addition, sodium and potassium concentrations were measured in the synovial fluid samples using a spectrophotometer. As a result of these investigations, it was found that the synovial fluid samples from patients with rheumatoid arthritis contained a significantly lower concentration of ionized sodium. It is concluded that the lower concentration of sodium ions in synovial fluid of rheumatoid arthritis may result in a diminution of electrical repulsive forces acting within synovial joints, and explain, in part, the cartilage attrition seen in this disease.

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