The role of multiple strands and locking sutures on gap formation of flexor tendon repairs during cyclical loading
Reconstructive Surgical Procedures
The purpose of this study was to delineate the contribution of increasing suture strands and locking repair design in the prevention of gap formation using a cadaveric model for linear cyclical loading. Forty flexor digitorum profundus tendons were lacerated and repaired using locked and nonlocked variations of a 4- and 8-strand flexor tendon repair. An incremental cyclical loading protocol from 25 N to 65 N was used. Comparison of the amount of Newton-cycles to reach 1, 2, 3, and 4 mm of gap and the Newton-cycles withstood before failure was performed using 2-way ANOVA. The 8-strand repairs demonstrated significantly increased fatigue strength compared with the 4-strand repairs, but the number of strands crossing the repair site did not significantly affect gap resistance. The locked repairs demonstrated a significant increase in gap resistance to 1 and 2 mm compared with the nonlocked repairs, but the difference was not sustained at higher load cycles. There was no association between gap resistance and fatigue strength. We conclude that an increase in the number of strands significantly increases the fatigue strength of a tendon repair but does not alter its gap resistance to cyclic loading. Locking of the repair does provide additional gap resistance at the relatively low cyclical loads anticipated during the early healing period using an active motion rehabilitation protocol.