BACKGROUND: Flexor tendon injury is common, and tendon reconstruction is indicated clinically if the primary repair fails or cannot be performed immediately after tendon injury. The purpose of the current study was to compare clinically standard extrasynovial autologous graft (EAG) tendon and intrasynovial allogeneic graft (IAG) that had both undergone biolubricant surface modification in a canine in vivo model. METHODS: Twenty-four flexor digitorum profundus (FDP) tendons from the second and fifth digits of 12 dogs were used for this study. In the first phase, a model of failed FDP tendon repair was created. After 6 weeks, the ruptured FDP tendons with a scarred digit were reconstructed with the use of either EAG or IAG tendons treated with carbodiimide-derivatized hyaluronic acid and lubricin. At 12 weeks after tendon reconstruction, the digits were harvested for functional, biomechanical, and histologic evaluations. RESULTS: The tendon failure model was a clinically relevant and reproducible model for tendon reconstruction. The IAG group demonstrated improved digit function with decreased adhesion formation, lower digit work of flexion, and improved graft gliding ability compared with the EAG group. However, the IAG group had decreased healing at the distal tendon-bone junction. Our histologic findings verified the biomechanical evaluations and, further, showed that cellular repopulation of allograft at 12 weeks after reconstruction is still challenging. CONCLUSIONS: FDP tendon reconstruction using IAG with surface modification has some beneficial effects for reducing adhesions but demonstrated inferior healing at the distal tendon-bone junction compared with EAG. These mixed results indicate that vitalization and turnover acceleration are crucial to reducing failure of reconstruction with allograft. CLINICAL RELEVANCE: Flexor tendon reconstruction is a common surgical procedure. However, postoperative adhesion formation may lead to unsatisfactory clinical outcomes. In this study, we developed a potential flexor tendon allograft using chemical and tissue-engineering approaches. This technology could improve function following tendon reconstruction.
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