Structural and mechanical integrity of tendon-to-tendon attachments used in upper limb tendon transfer surgery

J Plast Surg Hand Surg. 2012 Sep;46(3-4):262-6. doi: 10.3109/2000656X.2012.684097. Epub 2012 May 23.


Improved tendon-to-tendon suturing techniques allow for consistent and immediate activation of transferred muscle after surgery. A pre-requisite for early training after tendon transfer surgery is sufficient mechanical integrity of the tendon-to-tendon attachment. This in vitro study compared the mechanisms and magnitudes of load-to-failure response of two different repair techniques (side-to-side running, n = 7) and weave sutures (n = 8) in sheep front foot tendons. Tensile tests were performed by placing pre-conditioned tendons in a testing machine and stretching at a constant speed to failure. The length of the tendons overlap was the same (50 mm) for both repair techniques. The results of the load to failure tests showed that the side-to-side repairs were significantly stronger than the weave repairs. The failure mechanisms were also different. While the side-to-side attachment failed by longitudinal separation of tendon material of the donor tendon but with the fibres locked to the running sutures attached to the recipient tendon, the weave repairs failed by knot slipping or by suture pullout from the tendon substance. It is concluded that use of the side-to-side repair technique can provide early active training of new motors that not only prevent the formation of adhesions but also facilitate the voluntary recruitment of motors powering new functions before immobilisation-related swelling and stiffness restrain muscle contractions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Forelimb
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Sheep
  • Suture Techniques*
  • Tendon Transfer / methods*
  • Tensile Strength