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Deciphering the Pathogenesis of Tendinopathy: A Three-Stages Process


Deciphering the Pathogenesis of Tendinopathy: A Three-Stages Process

Sai-Chuen Fu et al. Sports Med Arthrosc Rehabil Ther Technol.


Our understanding of the pathogenesis of "tendinopathy" is based on fragmented evidences like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. We propose a "failed healing theory" to knit these fragments together, which can explain previous observations. We also propose that albeit "overuse injury" and other insidious "micro trauma" may well be primary triggers of the process, "tendinopathy" is not an "overuse injury" per se. The typical clinical, histological and biochemical presentation relates to a localized chronic pain condition which may lead to tendon rupture, the latter attributed to mechanical weakness. Characterization of pathological "tendinotic" tissues revealed coexistence of collagenolytic injuries and an active healing process, focal hypervascularity and tissue metaplasia. These observations suggest a failed healing process as response to a triggering injury. The pathogenesis of tendinopathy can be described as a three stage process: injury, failed healing and clinical presentation. It is likely that some of these "initial injuries" heal well and we speculate that predisposing intrinsic or extrinsic factors may be involved. The injury stage involves a progressive collagenolytic tendon injury. The failed healing stage mainly refers to prolonged activation and failed resolution of the normal healing process. Finally, the matrix disturbances, increased focal vascularity and abnormal cytokine profiles contribute to the clinical presentations of chronic tendon pain or rupture. With this integrative pathogenesis theory, we can relate the known manifestations of tendinopathy and point to the "missing links". This model may guide future research on tendinopathy, until we could ultimately decipher the complete pathogenesis process and provide better treatments.


Figure 1
Figure 1
Failed healing theory for the pathogenesis of tendinopathy.

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