Despite widespread use of radiofrequency (RF) shrinkage, there have been no animal studies on the effects of post-operative immobilisation on the histological properties of the shrunken tissue. We have therefore examined the role of post-operative immobilisation after RF shrinkage with special emphasis on the histological properties of collagenous tissue.
One patellar tendon of 66 New Zealand White rabbits was shrunk. Six rabbits were killed immediately after the operation. Twenty rabbits were not immobilised, 20 were immobilised for three weeks and 20 for six weeks. Fibroblasts, collagen and vascular quality and density were evaluated on sections, stained by haematoxylin and eosin.
Nine weeks after operation the histological properties were inferior to those of the contralateral control tendons. Shrunk tendons did not return to normal at any time after operation irrespective of whether the animals had been immobilised or not. All the parameters improved significantly between zero and three weeks after operation. Immobilised tendons tended to have a better and faster recovery.
Careful rehabilitation is imperative after RF shrinkage. Immobilisation aids recovery of the histological properties. Our findings in this animal model support a period of immobilisation of more than three weeks.