Adjustable buttons for ACL graft cortical fixation partially fail with cyclic loading and unloading

J Glasbrenner, C Domnick, M J Raschke, T Willinghöfer, C Kittl, P Michel, D Wähnert, Mirco Herbort
Knee Surgery, Sports Traumatology, Arthroscopy: Official Journal of the ESSKA 2018 October 27

PURPOSE: Despite good initial pullout strength, it is unclear whether adjustable button (AB) devices for anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) soft-tissue graft fixation, which are based on the Chinese finger trap technique, resist cyclic loading. Furthermore, they have never been tested in a cyclic protocol including complete unloading. It was hypothesized, that the displacement of AB devices with the Chinese finger trap technique would be greater than that of continuous suture loop devices and other available AB mechanisms in a cyclic loading with complete unloading protocol.

METHODS: ACL reconstruction was performed in a porcine knee model using three different types of cortical fixation devices: two different AB devices that use the Chinese finger trap design, one AB device that uses a locked suture loop mechanism and two different continuous loop devices as control groups (n = 40). Specimens were mounted in a material-testing machine (Instron Inc.) that permitted 2500 loading and complete unloading cycles to a maximum of 250 N, as well as continuous elongation recording. A one-way ANOVA was performed for statistical analysis.

RESULTS: The displacement of ABs with a Chinese finger trap loop (mean 8.1; SD 1.5 mm and mean 6.1; SD 1.4 mm) was significantly greater than that of AB with a locked suture loop (mean 4.7; SD 1.0 mm; p < 0.05) and devices with a continuous loop (mean 4.1; SD 0.5 mm and mean 4.4, SD 0.3 mm; p < 0.01). No significant differences were detected between the ABs with a locked suture loop and the continuous loops.

CONCLUSION: Cyclic loading and unloading of AB using the Chinese finger trap technique leads to significantly greater construct lengthening compared with other devices. Complete unloading of the ACL is very likely to occur during rehabilitation after ACL reconstruction. Lengthening of the AB device due to cyclic loading might be a potential mode of failure of the ACL graft fixation. Therefore, when using an AB femoral fixation technique, a locked suture loop design or a careful rehabilitation protocol should be considered.

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