Rotator cuff anchor repair: Histological changes associated with the recovering mechanical properties in a rabbit model

J Tissue Eng Regen Med. 2021 Apr 4. doi: 10.1002/term.3195. Online ahead of print.


Rotator cuff anchor repair is an increasingly common surgical procedure but the failure rate remains high. In order to improve surgical outcomes, a better understanding of postrepair histological and cellular responses at the tendon-bone attachment site (enthesis) is needed. We examined operated shoulders from 42 New Zealand female white rabbits. The animals underwent unilateral supraspinatus detachment followed by anchor repair a week later. To assess enthesis reformation, fibrocartilage staining area and the number of chondrocytes or nonchondrocytes were quantified at 0, 1, 2, and 4 weeks postrepair. Using linear regression, we correlated these results with the load to failure and stiffness recorded during mechanical testing of the tendons. Fibrocartilage staining and chondrocyte number increased during the first 2 weeks of enthesis formation. Between 2 and 4 weeks, fibrocartilage staining plateaued while chondrocyte number decreased. The presence of nonchondrocytes remained similar between 0- and 1-week postrepair but then decreased abruptly at 2 weeks. There was a linear correlation between fibrocartilage staining area and load to failure as well as stiffness. Nonchondrocyte number negatively correlated with stiffness. Early plateau of fibrocartilage staining and decrease in chondrocytes between 2 and 4 weeks postrepair suggest a blunted enthesis formation response in our animal model.

Keywords: arthroplasty; histology; rotator cuff; tendons.