The effects of augmentation with Swine small intestine submucosa on tendon healing under tension: histologic and mechanical evaluations in sheep

Theodore F Schlegel, Richard J Hawkins, Chad W Lewis, Tatiana Motta, A Simon Turner
American Journal of Sports Medicine 2006, 34 (2): 275-80

BACKGROUND: Rotator cuff failure after surgery may be attributed to inferior tissue healing properties that result from repetitive cyclic loading during early rehabilitation. Enhancing the biological healing process may reduce the incidence of failures after rotator cuff repairs.

HYPOTHESIS: Augmentation of rotator cuff tissue using swine small intestine submucosa in a sheep model will improve the rate and quality of tissue repair.

STUDY DESIGN: Controlled laboratory study.

METHODS: We resected and reattached 26 sheep infraspinatus tendons under tension, with 13 animals receiving a small intestine submucosa patch (augmented group). Animals were sacrificed at 12 weeks, and biomechanical testing and histologic evaluation were performed. Biomechanical testing was completed in 10 tendons from each group. Specimens were loaded to failure at a constant displacement to obtain the load deformation curve used to calculate load to failure and stiffness of the healed bone-tendon interface. Histologic testing addressed tissue healing at the bone-tendon interface.

RESULTS: The load-to-failure data did not indicate a significant difference between the augmented and nonaugmented groups (1252 +/- 402 N vs 985 +/- 459 N, respectively; P > .05). However, the augmented group had significantly better stiffness than the nonaugmented group (215 +/- 44 N/mm vs 154 +/- 63 N/mm, respectively; P = .03). Histologic data revealed that the infraspinatus tendon in all specimens inserted into the bone through a zone of fibrocartilage, although none of the patches were intact.

CONCLUSION: Although there were no differences in the load-to-failure data between the 2 groups, the statistically significant improvement in stiffness for the augmented group is clinically relevant. Stiffness is the biomechanical parameter representing the tissue response to subdestructive loads seen with early rehabilitation. Augmenting the repair with a collagen matrix improved the early healing characteristics of the repair construct.

CLINICAL RELEVANCE: Enhancing the biological process of tendon healing under tension by using a collagen matrix patch may improve the ultimate success of rotator cuff repair.

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