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Stabilization and Gap Formation of Adjustable Versus Fixed Primary ACL Repair With Internal Brace: An in Vitro Full-Construct Biomechanical Cadaveric Study.

BACKGROUND: A knotless, tensionable primary anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) repair system preloaded with an internal brace has been released. Currently, there is no biomechanical data on the stabilization and gap formation behavior of the adjustable system when compared with fixed repairs in human ACL tissue.

HYPOTHESIS: That knotless adjustable suture repair with an internal brace would provide overall higher construct stability and greater load share on the ACL with less gap formation compared with fixed repair.

STUDY DESIGN: Controlled laboratory study.

METHODS: Human cadaveric knees were utilized for internal braced ACL repair constructs (each group n = 16). Two fixed groups consisting of a single-cinch loop (SCL), cortical button (SCL group), and knotless suture-anchor (anchor group) were compared with an SCL-adjustable loop device (SCL-ALD) group. Testing was performed at 4 different peak loads (50, 150, 250, 350 N) over 4000 cycles at 0.75 Hz including suture repair preconditioning (10 cycles at 0.5 Hz) for SCL-ALD. Specimens were ultimately pulled to failure with a cut internal brace. The final loading situation of the construct and ACL repair with gap formation and ultimate strength were evaluated.

RESULTS: Peak elongation at various peak loads showed a significantly higher ( P  < .001) stabilization of SCL-ALD when compared with both fixed groups. There was a significantly higher ( P  < .001) load share of SCL-ALD, especially at lower loads (48% of 50 N), and the gap formation remained restricted up to 250 N. With only a little load share on the fixed constructs (<6%) at lower loads (50, 150 N), gap formation in these groups started at a load of 150 N, leading to significantly higher gaps ( P  < .001). The ultimate failure load for SCL-ALD and anchor groups was significantly increased ( P  < .001) as compared with SCL. The stiffness of SCL-ALD (62.9 ± 10.6 N/mm) was significantly increased ( P  < .001).

CONCLUSION: Internal braced knotless adjustable fixation for ACL repair with preconditioning of the suture repaired ligament increased the overall stabilization with higher load share on the ACL and restricted gap formation (<0.5 mm up to 350 N) compared with fixed suture repair. All internal braced repairs restored stability according to native ACL function.

CLINICAL RELEVANCE: Adjustable ACL repair improved the mechanical characteristics and reduced gap formation, but the overall clinical significance on healing remains unclear.

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