Purpose: Absorbable suture anchors offer great advantages but are made of mechanically weak material. The weakest link in the fixation of soft tissue to bone may therefore be the anchor itself. In this study, several commercially available anchors were mechanically tested in vitro.
Type of study: Biomechanical bench study.
Methods: Twelve absorbable suture anchor models were implanted into an artificial test bone according to the recommended technique. Testing temperature was 37 degrees C +/- 1 degrees C. The anchors were loaded with an Instron testing machine with the suture material (USP No. 2, Ethibond, Ethicon, Somerville, NJ) in line with the anchor axis, with and without previous abrasion of the suture at the eyelet. Tensile load at failure and failure mode were recorded. To test creep behavior, a permanent load of 100 N was applied to the anchors, and time to failure was recorded. Suture anchor weight and crystallinity were analyzed.
Results: Mean failure load on tensile testing using a cross-head speed of 60 mm/min ranged from 124 to 244 N. Failure modes were eyelet failure in 5 cases, suture failure in 6 cases, and anchor pullout in 1 case. In creep testing, eyelet failure occurred in 8 anchor models after a mean duration of 0.5 to 99 hours; 3 anchor models remained intact after 300 hours, and 1 anchor model failed by pullout of the test sample. Crystallinity ranged from 0% (amorphous) to 57.2%; anchor weight ranged from 0.036 to 0.161 g. Mechanical properties did not correlate with crystallinity but with anchor weight. Abrasion of the suture material at the eyelet had little effect on failure load.
Conclusions: At 37 degrees C, structural failure (breaking) of absorbable suture anchors may occur if loaded to the mechanical limit. Absorbable anchors are particularly sensitive to static, long-term loading.