Background: Most tissue banks recover and irradiate tibialis tendon allografts from donors aged up to 65 years. It is unknown whether donor age and low-dose gamma irradiation affect the initial biomechanical properties of tibialis allografts.
Hypothesis: Donor age up to 65 years and low-dose gamma irradiation do not significantly affect the initial biomechanical properties of tibialis allografts.
Study design: Controlled laboratory study.
Methods: One hundred twenty-six tibialis tendon allografts (63 pairs, 37 human donors) were divided into 3 age groups: young (<45 years), middle (46-55 years), and old (56-65 years). Within each age group, half of the paired tendons underwent tensile testing as single-strand grafts and the other half as double-strand grafts. One tendon from each donor pair was randomly assigned to undergo terminal sterilization with an absorbed dose of 1.46 to 1.80 Mrad (14.6-18.0 kGy) gamma irradiation, whereas the other tendon received no irradiation. All tendon grafts were preconditioned with a cyclic load and tested to failure in tension.
Results: Irradiated single-strand tendons in the old age group had a longer displacement at failure compared to the middle but not the young age group. Nonirradiated double-strand tendons in the old age group had a lower failure stress. Single-strand irradiated old tendons had a lower stiffness, and all irradiated young tendons and old double-strand tendons had a higher failure stress compared to nonirradiated tendons.
Conclusion: Donor age up to 65 years does not significantly affect the initial failure load, stiffness, or displacement at failure of tibialis allografts. An age-related decrease in failure stress was observed among nonirradiated tendons but not in tendons subjected to irradiation.
Clinical relevance: The results provide biomechanical evidence for use of tibialis allografts from donors up to 65 years of age. Low-dose gamma irradiation does not negatively influence the initial biomechanical properties of tibialis allografts. Further studies examining age and irradiation effects after submaximal cyclic loading conditions are recommended.