Is Dual Semitendinosus Allograft Stronger Than Turndown for Achilles Tendon Reconstruction? An In Vitro Analysis
Large Achilles tendon defects pose a treatment challenge. The standard treatment with a turndown flap requires a large extensile incision, puts the sural nerve at risk, and demands slow, careful rehabilitation. Dual allograft semitendinosus reconstruction is a new clinical alternative that has the theoretical advantages of a smaller incision, less dissection, and a stronger construct that may allow for faster rehabilitation.
In a cadaver biomechanical model, we compared the dual allograft semitendinosus reconstruction with the myofascial turndown in terms of (1) mechanical strength and resistance to deformation and (2) failure mechanisms in reconstruction of large segmental Achilles defects.
An 8-cm segmental Achilles defect was created in 18 cadaveric lower extremities, nine matched pairs without defect or previous surgery (mean age, 78.4 years; range, 60–97 years; three female and six male pairs). Femoral neck densitometry to determine bone mineral density found that all specimens except two were osteopenic or osteoporotic. Specimens in each pair were assigned to allograft or turndown reconstruction. The constructs were mounted on a load frame and differential variable reluctance transducers were applied to measure deformation. Specimens were preconditioned and then loaded axially. Tensile force and proximal and distal construct deformation were measured at clinical failure, defined as 10 mm of displacement, and at ultimate failure, defined as failure of the reconstruction. Failure mechanism was recorded.
Tensile strength at time zero was higher in the allograft versus the turndown construct at clinical failure (156.9 ± 29.7 N versus 107.2 ± 20.0 N, respectively; mean difference, −49.7 N; 95% CI, −66.3 to −33.0 N; p < 0.001) and at ultimate failure (290.9 ± 83.2 N versus 140.7 ± 43.5 N, respectively; mean difference, −150.2 N; 95% CI, −202.9 to −97.6 N; p < 0.001). Distal construct deformation was lower in the turndown versus the allograft construct at clinical failure (1.6 ± 1.0 mm versus 4.7 ± 0.7 mm medially and 2.2 ± 1.0 mm versus 4.8 ± 1.1 mm laterally; p < 0.001). Semitendinosus allograft failure occurred via calcaneal bone bridge fracture in eight of nine specimens. All myofascial turndowns failed via suture pullout through the fascial tissue at its insertion.
In this comparative biomechanical study, dual semitendinosus allograft reconstruction showed greater tensile strength and construct deformation compared with myofascial turndown in a cadaveric model of large Achilles tendon defects.
Further study of dual semitendinosus allograft for treatment of severe Achilles tendon defects with cyclic loading and investigation of clinical results will better elucidate the clinical utility and indications for this technique.