From a study of a series of rabbits inoculated with two old strains of Treponema pallidum, it was found that localized infection of bones and tendons was of frequent occurrence and led to the formation of a variety of lesions.
The bones usually involved were those of the face and the feet and legs. Most often the lesions arose from the periosteum but developed also within the bone or marrow cavities and at lines of epiphyseal union.
Grossly, the periosteal lesions were of two types—one being a circumscribed, indurated, and nodular mass and the other a process of a more diffuse character. Histologically, the lesions presented the typical appearance of syphilitic granulomata composed of more or less distinct layers which corresponded roughly with structural divisions of the periosteum. The composition of lesions of membrane and of cartilage bones differed somewhat in this respect, especially in the development of an osteoclastic layer. Invasion of the bone with absorption and necrosis were constant features of periosteal affections and were most marked in the case of the facial bones and the small bones of the feet.
Lesions in the bone and marrow cavities were detected chiefly by radiographs or by the occurrence of bone destruction in the absence of periosteal involvement. They were characterized by a loss of structural detail in the bone, rarefication, increased fragility, necrosis, pathological fracture, and epiphyseal separation associated with more or less granulomatous reaction. Histologically, the bone lesions presented essentially the same picture as those of the periosteum, while the lesions which arose from the marrow cavities were composed chiefly of polyblastic infiltrations. In this group of affections, the most important were those which developed at the epiphyses.
The destructive effects produced by all classes of lesions varied from a slight surface erosion or rarefication to extensive necrosis resulting in the formation of bony defects or in disintegration or fracture of the bone. These conditions differed very decidedly with the particular bones involved.
Of especial importance in this connection was the occurrence of a peculiar form of mass necrosis which at times resulted in the destruction of considerable areas of bone even in parts where the granulomatous type of lesion was comparatively slight. The most characteristic injuries were the saddle-nose deformities and the epiphyseal separation in the small bones of the tarsus and hind feet.
The marks of permanent injury were, on the whole, comparatively slight, but they also differed both with the degree of the original injury and with the bone affected.
Granulomatous lesions of tendons or tendon sheaths were occasionally seen, and in a few instances, lesions of synovial cavities were demonstrated microscopically.