Effects of complete stress-shielding on the mechanical properties and histology of in situ frozen patellar tendon

J Orthop Res. 1993 Jul;11(4):592-602. doi: 10.1002/jor.1100110414.


The effects of freezing and stress-shielding on the mechanical properties and histology of the patellar tendon (PT) were studied with the use of 28 mature Japanese white rabbits. The PT was frozen in situ by liquid nitrogen to kill the fibroblasts and then, for stress-shielding, a stainless-steel wire, installed between the patella and the tibial tubercle, was stretched to release all tension in the PT. After being allowed unrestricted activity in their cages for 1, 2, 3, or 6 weeks, the animals were killed, and the PTs were excised for mechanical and histological study. The cross-sectional area of the frozen and stress-shielded PT started to increase significantly 1 week after the treatment and leveled off at 3 weeks. In contrast, the tensile strength and elastic modulus began to decrease significantly at 1 week, falling to 15% of the control values at 6 weeks. Histologically, cells were absent until 2 weeks after freezing and stress-shielding, although new cells appeared by 3 weeks. Splitting and fragmentation of collagen bundles were observed beginning at 2 weeks. These results indicate that complete stress-shielding led to substantial changes in the mechanical properties of the once-frozen PT, even in the absence of the tissue remodeling process by fibroblasts.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cryopreservation
  • Female
  • Knee / anatomy & histology
  • Knee / physiology*
  • Rabbits
  • Stress, Mechanical
  • Tendons / anatomy & histology
  • Tendons / physiology*
  • Tensile Strength