Effect of highly purified capsaicin on articular cartilage and rotator cuff tendon healing: An in vivo rabbit study

Nicole A. Friel, Allison G. McNickle, Michael J. Defranco, Fanchia Wang, Elizabeth F. Shewman, Nikhil N. Verma, Brian J. Cole, Bernard R. Bach, Susan Chubinskaya, Susan M. Kramer, Vincent M. Wang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Highly purified capsaicin has emerged as a promising injectable compound capable of providing sustained pain relief following a single localized treatment during orthopedic surgical procedures. To further assess its reliability for clinical use, the potential effect of highly purified capsaicin on articular cartilage metabolism as well as tendon structure and function warrants clarification. In the current study, rabbits received unilateral supraspinatus transection and repair with a single 1 ml injection of capsaicin (R + C), PEG-only placebo (R + P), or saline (R + S) into the glenohumeral joint (GHJ). An additional group received 1 ml capsaicin onto an intact rotator cuff (I + C). At 18 weeks post-op, cartilage proteoglycan (PG) synthesis and content as well as cell viability were similar (p > 0.05) across treatment groups. Biomechanical testing revealed no differences (p > 0.05) among tendon repair treatment groups. Similarly, histologic features of both cartilage and repaired tendons showed minimal differences across groups. Hence, in this rabbit model, a single injection of highly purified capsaicin into the GHJ does not induce a deleterious response with regard to cartilage matrix metabolism and cell viability, or rotator cuff healing. These data provide further evidence supporting the use of injectable, highly purified capsaicin as a safe alternative for management of postoperative pain following GHJ surgery.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1854-1860
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Orthopaedic Research
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • anesthetic
  • capsaicin
  • cartilage
  • rotator cuff
  • tendon

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine


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