The biochemical means by which accelerated rehabilitation alters intrasynovial flexor tendon repair site collagen synthesis and extracellular matrix maturation are not fully understood. We hypothesized that an increased level of applied rehabilitative force in a clinically relevant animal model would hasten the maturation of the repair site extracellular matrix as demonstrated by total collagen and collagen cross-link assessment. Twenty-eight flexor digitorum profundus tendons from 14 adult dogs were transected and repaired. The animals received either low- or high-force rehabilitation and were killed 10, 21, and 42 days after surgery. A 10-mm segment of tendon surrounding the repair site was obtained. Biochemical analysis showed that total collagen concentration was significantly reduced at each time point, that the reducible cross-link ratio of dihydroxylysinonorleucine to hydroxylysinonorleucine was significantly increased at each time point, and that the nonreducible pyridinoline cross-link content was significantly decreased at 10 days in both rehabilitative groups. Total collagen content did not vary to a statistically significant degree with either time or as a function of rehabilitation type. Based on these findings several clinically relevant observations can be made. Increasing collagen concentration and repair site maturation do not explain the previously demonstrated increased tensile properties of tendon that occur between 3 and 6 weeks after repair. Higher force rehabilitation does not alter the biochemical composition of the healing tendon through 6 weeks. Coupled with other recent data these findings suggest that high-force rehabilitation does not stimulate accelerated healing after intrasynovial flexor tendon repair.
- Flexor tendon