Hamstring Tendon Grafts for Reconstruction of the Anterior Cruciate Ligament: Biomechanical Evaluation of the Use of Multiple Strands and Tensioning Techniques*


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Abstract

Background: Our hypothesis that multiple, equally tensioned strands of hamstring graft used for reconstruction of the anterior cruciate ligament are stronger and stiffer than ten-millimeter patellar ligament grafts was tested biomechanically with use of tendons from cadavera.Methods: In the first part of the study, we measured the strength and stiffness of one, two, and four-strand hamstring grafts, from fresh-frozen cadaveric knees, that had been tensioned equally when clamped. In the second part of the study, we compared four-strand grafts to which tension had been applied by hand and then clamped with similar grafts to which tension had been applied with weights and then clamped. The grafts for the two experiments were obtained from thirty-four paired and ten unpaired knees. We also studied the effects of cooling on the biomechanical properties of grafts by comparing patellar ligament grafts tested at 13 degrees Celsius with those tested at room temperature.Results: Two equally tensioned gracilis strands had 185 percent of the strength and 210 percent of the stiffness (1550 ± 428 newtons and 336 ± 141 newtons per millimeter, respectively) of one gracilis strand (837 ± 138 newtons and 160 ± 44 newtons per millimeter, respectively). Two equally tensioned semitendinosus strands had 220 percent of the strength and 220 percent of the stiffness (2330 ± 452 newtons and 469 ± 185 newtons per millimeter, respectively) of one semitendinosus strand (1060 ± 227 newtons and 213 ± 44 newtons per millimeter, respectively).Four combined strands (two gracilis strands and two semitendinosus strands) that were equally tensioned with weights and clamped had the additive tensile properties of the individual strands. With the numbers available, four combined strands that were manually tensioned and clamped were not found to be significantly stronger or stiffer than two semitendinosus strands that were equally tensioned with weights (p > 0.07).Conclusions: Four combined strands that were equally tensioned with weights and clamped were stronger and stiffer than all ten-millimeter patellar ligament grafts that have been described in previous reports. All strands of a hamstring graft must be equally tensioned for the composite to have its optimum biomechanical properties.Clinical Relevance: Because of the well recognized donor-site morbidity associated with the use of patellar ligament grafts for reconstruction of the anterior cruciate ligament, multiple-strand hamstring-tendon grafts have become an increasingly popular choice. Our data demonstrate that equally tensioned four-strand hamstring-tendon grafts have initial tensile properties that are higher than those reported for ten-millimeter patellar-ligament grafts; thus, from a biomechanical point of view, they seem to be a reasonable alternative.

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