Ligamentization of tendon grafts treated with an endogenous preparation rich in growth factors: gross morphology and histology

Arthroscopy. 2010 Apr;26(4):470-80. doi: 10.1016/j.arthro.2009.08.019. Epub 2010 Jan 15.


Purpose: To investigate whether the application of a particular platelet-rich plasma preparation rich in growth factors (PRGF) during anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) surgery gives a potential advantage for better tendon graft ligamentization.

Methods: This study included 37 volunteers who underwent either conventional (control group, n = 15) or PRGF-assisted (n = 22) ACL reconstruction with an autogenous hamstring and required second-look arthroscopy to remove hardware or loose bodies, treat meniscal tears or plica syndrome, or resect cyclops lesions at 6 to 24 months after ACL surgery. The gross morphologies of the grafts were evaluated on second-look arthroscopy by use of the full arthroscopic score (0 to 4 points) to evaluate graft thickness and apparent tension (0 to 2 points) plus synovial coverage (0 to 2 points). At the same time, biopsy specimens were harvested uniformly from the grafted tendons. In these specimens the histologic transformation of the tendon graft to ACL-like tissue was evaluated by use of the Ligament Tissue Maturity Index, and a score to assess the progression of new connective tissue enveloping the graft was created by use of 3 criteria previously used to characterize changes during ligament healing: cellularity, vascularity, and collagen properties.

Results: The overall arthroscopic evaluation of PRGF-treated grafts showed an excellent rating in 57.1% of the knees (score of 4) and a fair rating in 42.9% (score of 2 or 3). In contrast, evaluation of untreated grafts showed an excellent rating in 33.3% of the knees, a fair rating in 46.7%, and a poor rating in 20% (score of 0 or 1). Overall, arthroscopic evaluations were not statistically different between PRGF and control groups (P = .051). PRGF treatment influenced the histologic characteristics of the tendon graft, resulting in tissue that was more mature than in controls (P = .024). Histologically evident newly formed connective tissue enveloping the graft was present in 77.3% of PRGF-treated grafts and 40% of controls. The appearance of the connective tissue envelope changed with increasing time from surgery. On the basis of the histologic findings, we suggest that the remodeling of PRGF-treated grafts involves the formation of synovial-like tissue enveloping the graft. This tissue is eventually integrated in the remodeled tendon graft, conferring a similar appearance to the normal ACL.

Conclusions: The use of PRGF influenced the histologic characteristics of tendon grafts, resulting in more remodeling compared with untreated grafts. We have shown temporal histologic changes during the 6- to 24-month postoperative period of graft maturation, with newly formed connective tissue enveloping most grafts treated with PRGF.

Level of evidence: Level III, case-control study.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Anterior Cruciate Ligament / drug effects*
  • Anterior Cruciate Ligament / pathology*
  • Anterior Cruciate Ligament / surgery
  • Arthroscopy
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intercellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins / pharmacology*
  • Knee Joint / pathology
  • Knee Joint / surgery
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Platelet-Rich Plasma*
  • Tendons / drug effects*
  • Tendons / pathology*
  • Tendons / transplantation
  • Young Adult


  • Intercellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins