The Biophysical Characteristics of Human Composite Flexor Tendon Allograft for Upper Extremity Reconstruction

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Abstract

Introduction

Devastating volar hand injuries with significant damage to the skin and soft tissues, pulley structures and fibro-osseous sheath, flexor tendons, and volar plates pose a major problem to the reconstructive hand surgeon. Despite advances in tendon handling, operative technique, and postoperative hand rehabilitation, patients who have undergone flexor tendon reconstruction are often plagued by chronic pain, stiffness, and decreased range of motion with resultant decreased ability to work and poor quality of life. In this article, we expand the technique of human composite flexor tendon allografts (CFTAs), pioneered by Dr E.E. Peacock, Jr, which consist of both the intrasynovial and extrasynovial flexor digitorum superficialis and flexor digitorum profundus tendons and their respective fibro-osseous sheath consisting of the digital pulley structures, periosteum, and volar plates procured from cadaveric donors with the use of modern tissue processing techniques.

Methods

Human cadaveric CFTAs were procured and divided into 2 groups—unprocessed CFTAs and processed CFTAs, which are cleansed and sterilized to a sterility assurance level of 10−6. Physical length and width relationships as well as tensile strength and gliding resistance assessments were recorded pre-tissue and post-tissue processing. The histologic properties of the composite allografts were assessed before and after tissue processing.

Results

There was no significant difference with respect to physical properties of the composite allografts before or after tissue processing. The processed composite allografts demonstrated equivalent maximum load to failure and elastic modulus compared to unprocessed tendons. The gliding resistance of the composite tendon allografts was not significantly different between the 2 groups.

Conclusions

The use of CFTAs addresses the issues of adhesion formation and lack of suitable donor material by providing a source of intrasynovial tendon in its unaltered fibro-osseous sheath without donor morbidity. This approach represents an important step toward designing an ideal material for complex flexor tendon reconstruction, which takes advantage of an intrasynovial flexor tendon in its native fibro-osseous sheath without the need for additional donor morbidity using a construct which can be engineered to have minimal tissue reactivity, negligible potential for disease transmission, and improved tendon healing properties versus standard tendon allograft.

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