What is the perichondrium?

The perichondrium is a dense layer of fibrous connective tissue that covers cartilage in various parts of the body.

Perichondrium tissue commonly covers these areas:

In adults, perichondrium tissue does not cover articular cartilage in the joints or where the ligaments attach to bone. However, in children, perichondrium can be found in articular cartilage along with common areas throughout the body. This is often why cellular regeneration is more likely in children versus adults.

Perichondrium is made of two layers:

  • Outer fibrous layer. This dense membrane of connective tissue contains fibroblast cells that produce collagen.
  • Inner chondrogenic layer. This layer contains fibroblast cells that produce chondroblasts and chondrocytes (cartilage cells).

Perichondrium tissue helps protect bones from injury, specifically those still growing or developing. As a form of protection, it encourages cell regeneration to reduce recovery time. This is especially true for children, but may not be true for adults.

Your perichondrium tissue also provides elasticity to parts of your body by reducing friction. This can prevent bone damage, injury, and long-term deterioration.

The fibrous nature of perichondrium tissue allows blood flow to easily pass through your body. This steady blood flow helps distribute nutrients necessary to strengthen and nourish your cartilage. Fibrous perichondrium tissue also allows oxygen and nutrients to flow without obstruction.

Conditions that affect the perichondrium

Trauma to your cartilage can damage your perichondrium tissue. Common injuries include:

  • Perichondritis. This condition causes your perichondrium tissue to become inflamed and infected. Insect bites, piercings, or trauma are common causes of this injury. If you’re diagnosed with this condition, you may experience pain, redness, and swelling. In more serious cases, you may develop a fever or accumulate pus in your injury. Perichondritis can become a recurrent condition. It can be treated with antibiotics.
  • Cauliflower ear. This common injury, often occurring in athletes, causes the ear to swell. Serious trauma or a hard blow to the ear can damage your perichondrium and reduce blood flow. This makes the affected portion of your ear look like a cauliflower. Cauliflower ear can be treated with antibiotics, or stitches if your doctor removes the obstruction to increase steady blood flow.