Fatty change in the human temporomandibular joint disc. Light and electron microscopy study

E. S. Helmy, D. P. Timmis, Mohamed M.H. Sharawy, O. Abdelatif, R. A. Bays

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Joint pain has been associated with fatty infiltration of the knee articulation. The purpose of this study is to report on the histopathological findings, especially fatty changes, that are seen in surgical specimens from the temporomandibular joints (TMJ) of patients that had persistent pain after non-surgical therapy. Forty plicated TMJ retrodiscal samples from 25 patients were used in this study. The patients were previously treated with splints for variable periods but not less than 2 months. The specimens were obtained by 2 surgeons using standard TMJ plication techniques. Control disc specimens were obtained from normal appearing cadaveric TM joints. Samples were immediately immersed in glutaraldehyde and processed for light and electron microscopic examination. The specimens were composed mainly of moderately dense tissue with cells that appeared fibroblastic and intermittent chondrocytic type cells. Fatty change, exclusively in association with the perivascular areas, was observed in 27 of 40 specimens. Electron microscopy showed fibroblasts, as well as large fat inclusions adjacent to elastin macroglobules. Fatty infiltration of the TMJ has been interpreted as a degenerative change. It is postulated that kinins and prostaglandins generated in the fat pads can pass freely in tissue fluid to adjacent, highly innervated structures thus leading to joint pain. It is further postulated that the finding of associated elastin with fatty deposition is similar to the atherosclerotic changes encountered in large blood vessels and the aorta.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)38-43
Number of pages6
JournalInternational Journal of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1990


  • TMJ
  • fatty change
  • internal derangement

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Oral Surgery
  • Otorhinolaryngology


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