Perichondrium [from Greek peri = around; chondros = cartilage] is a membrane made of connective tissue that covers cartilage.
In adults, perichondrium:
- covers hyaline cartilage in the larynx (voice box), trachea (windpipe), nose 11 and ribs (costal cartilage 2), and elastic cartilage in the external ear (auricular cartilage), epiglottis and Eustachian tubes,
- is absent in the articular cartilage in the joints and fibrocartilage in the joint capsules, at the attachment points of tendons and ligaments to bones and in the intervertebral discs in the spine 1.
In children before puberty, perichondrium covers cartilage at the same sites as in adults AND the articular cartilage.
Perichondrium consists of two layers:
- The outer fibrous layer, which is made of dense irregular connective tissue, which contains the cells called fibroblasts, which produce collagen fibers type I
- The inner chondrogenic layer contains fibroblasts, which can produce chondroblasts and chondrocytes
- Small blood vessels
- References: 5,7
Perichondrium contributes to appositional cartilage growth and repair, which is good in growing individuals but poor in adults 3,6,7. Articular cartilage, which does not have perichondrium has very poor regeneration ability after damage 3. Fibrocartilage cartilage, which also lacks perichondrium undergoes interstitial growth 9.
During endochondral ossification at the bone collar, perichondrium produces osteoblasts and thus bone, and the perichondrium itself becomes periosteum 8.
In early bone development, perichondrium might serve as a reservoir of mesenchymal stem cells that can develop into osteoblasts, adipocytes and chondrocytes 10.
Perichondrium is involved in cartilage nourishment. Nutrients diffuse from capillaries in the perichondrium to cartilage, which is avascular (contains no vessels) 5.
Perichondrium contributes to the strength and stiffness of the costal cartilage in the ribs 2.
Perichondrium vs Periosteum — Differences and Similarities
|Fibrous and cellular layer||Yes||Yes|
|Dense irregular connective tissue, collagen type I||Yes||Yes|
|Regeneration ability||Weak cartilage regeneration ability||Strong bone regeneration ability|
Disorders of Perichondrium
Traumatic Auricular (Perichondrial) Hematoma or Cauliflower Ear
- After blow to the auricle, common in fighting sports 15
Auricular perichondritis is an infection of perichondrium in the pinna 4.
Perichondrial grafts can be used in:
- Plastic surgery of the nose (rhinoplasty) 12
- Repair of the eardrum; cartilage-perichondrial graft can be obtained from the tragus — a lower front part of the auricle 13
- Repair of articular cartilage in the knee damaged by osteochondritis 14
- Leeds.ac.uk (Cartilage types)
- PubMed (Perichondrium and costal cartilage)
- Inkling.com (Cartilage facts)
- Merck Manual (Perichondritis of pinna)
- Auburn.edu (Cartilage, bone and blood)
- Uwa.edu.au (Blue histology — cartilage composition)
- Essential Histology, by David H. Cormack, 2nd edition, y. 2001 (Histology)
- Bone formation and development cnx.org
- Kumc.edu (Bone and cartilage anatomy and biology)
- Rupress.org (Mesenchymal stem cells)
- PubMed (Using SMAS-perichondrial flap in rhinoplasty)
- PubMed (Grafts in nasal surgery)
- PMC (Graft material)
- PMC (Grafts for treatment of knee osteochondritis)
- Longislandwrestling.org (Cauliflower ear)