Salvage of contaminated osteochondral allografts: The effects of chlorhexidine on human articular chondrocyte viability

Joel Campbell, Giuseppe Filardo, Benjamin Bruce, Sarvottam Bajaj, Nicole Friel, Arnavaz Hakimiyan, Stephen Wood, Robert Grumet, Sasha Shafikhani, Susan Chubinskaya, Brian J. Cole

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Because chondrocyte viability is imperative for successful osteochondral allograft transplantation, sterilization techniques must provide antimicrobial effects with minimal cartilage toxicity. Chlorhexidine gluconate (CHG) is an effective disinfectant; however, its use with human articular cartilage requires further investigation. Purpose: To determine the maximal chlorhexidine concentration that does not affect chondrocyte viability in allografts and to determine whether this concentration effectively sterilizes contaminated osteoarticular grafts. Study Design: Controlled laboratory study. Methods: Osteochondral plugs were subjected to pulse lavage with 1-L solutions of 0.002%, 0.01%, 0.05%, and 0.25% CHG and cultured for 0, 1, 2, and 7 days in media of 10% fetal bovine serum and antibiotics. Chondrocyte viability was determined via LIVE/DEAD Viability Assay. Plugs were contaminated with Staphylococcus aureus and randomized to 4 treatment groups. One group was not contaminated; the 3 others were contaminated and received no treatment, saline pulse lavage, or saline pulse lavage with 0.002% CHG. Serial dilutions were plated and colony-forming units assessed. Results: The control group and the 0.002% CHG group showed similar cell viability, ranging from 67% ± 4% to 81% ± 22% (mean ± SD) at all time points. In the 0.01% CHG group, cell viability was reduced in comparison with control by 2-fold at day 2 and remained until day 7 (P < .01). The 0.05% and 0.25% CHG groups showed a 2-fold reduction in cell viability at day 1 (P < .01). At day 7, cell viability was reduced to 15% ± 18% (4-fold decrease) for the 0.05% CHG group and 10% ± 19% (6-fold decrease) for the 0.25% CHG group (P < .01). Contaminated grafts treated with 0.002% CHG demonstrated no colonyforming units. Conclusion: Pulse lavage with 0.002% CHG does not cause significant cell death within 7 days after exposure, while CHG at concentrations .0.002% significantly decreases chondrocyte viability within 1 to 2 days after exposure and should therefore not be used for disinfection of osteochondral allograft. Pulse lavage does not affect chondrocyte viability but cannot be used in isolation to sterilize contaminated fragments. Overall, 0.002% CHG was shown to effectively decontaminate osteoarticular fragments. Clinical Relevance: This study offers a scientific protocol for sterilizing osteochondral fragments that does not adversely affect cartilage viability.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)973-978
Number of pages6
JournalAmerican Journal of Sports Medicine
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • contamination
  • decontamination
  • dropped
  • osteochondral graft

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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