Structural and biomechanical characteristics after early mobilization in an Achilles tendon rupture model: operative versus nonoperative treatment

Daniel Krapf, Martin Kaipel, Martin Majewski
Orthopedics 2012, 35 (9): e1383-8
Acute Achilles tendon ruptures are common sports injuries; however, treatment remains a clinical challenge. Studies show a superior effect of early mobilization and full weight bearing on tendon healing and clinical outcome; however, few data exist on structural and biomechanical characteristics in the early healing phase. This study investigated the histological and biomechanical characteristics of early mobilization and full weight bearing in an Achilles tendon rupture model. Eighty rats underwent dissection of a hindpaw Achilles tendon; 40 rats were treated conservatively and 40 underwent open repair of the transected Achilles tendon by suturing. Early mobilization and full weight bearing were allowed in both groups. At 1, 2, 4, and 8 weeks after tenotomy, tensile strength, stiffness, thickness, tissue characteristics (histological analysis), and length were determined. Dissected Achilles tendons healed in all animals during full weight-bearing early mobilization. One and 2 weeks after tenotomy, rats in the operative group showed increased tensile strength and stiffness compared with the nonoperative group. Repair-site diameters were increased at 1, 2, and 8 weeks after tenotomy. Tendon length was decreased in the operative group throughout observation, whereas the nonoperative group showed increased structural characteristics on the cellular level and a more homogeneous collagen distribution. Surgical treatment of dissected rat Achilles tendons showed superior biomechanical characteristics within the first 2 weeks. Conservative treatment resulted in superior histological findings but significant lengthening of the tendon in the early healing phase (weeks 1-8).

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