Tendon injury in the finger remains a clinical challenge to hand surgeons. A canine model is commonly used to study biological effects of tendon injuries and their treatment. There is an important anatomical difference between human and canine anatomy that may be overlooked, however, namely that most of the flexor digitorum profundus (FDP) muscle in dogs takes its origin from the medial epicondyle of the humerus, whereas in humans this muscle arises purely from the forearm. Therefore, elbow position can affect the tension of this muscle in dogs, while having no effect in humans. The purpose of this study was to measure the effect of elbow position on tendon tension in the canine digit in vitro. Elbow position had a significant effect on tendon tension. Digit motion with the elbow fully flexed resulted in significantly higher tendon tension compared to digit motion with the elbow flexed 90° or fully extended, regardless of digit or wrist position (p < 0.05). The tension with the elbow flexed 90° was also significantly higher than with the elbow fully extended (p < 0.05). The maximum tendon tension with the elbow fully flexed was more than eight times larger than that of the fully extended elbow (p < 0.05). We conclude that, in the canine model, elbow position is an important parameter that affects the passive tension applied to the flexor digitorum profundus, and, by implication, to any repair of that tendon. Dog flexor tendon rehabilitation protocols should therefore specify elbow position, in addition to wrist and digit position.
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