BACKGROUND Bone tunnel widening after anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) reconstruction is a known complication that can lead to graft failure. Subsequent revision surgery typically involves a two-stage procedure. The aim of this study was to test a novel autologous tendon graft retaining muscle tissue combined with Human Recombinant Bone Morphogenetic Protein-2 (rh-BMP-2) leading to rapid ossification of the muscle tissue, simultaneously replenishing bone stock and producing a mechanically stable bone-tendon insertion.
METHODS In 12 skeletally mature New Zealand rabbits, the ACL was resected and oversized bone tunnels were drilled to model tunnel widening. The ipsilateral semitendinosus muscle-tendon graft was harvested and folded twice. Muscle tissue was removed in the middle third but retained at both distal ends. One side was wrapped in a collagen sponge loaded with rh-BMP-2 while the other end was used as its own control.
RESULTS All animals were euthanized after six weeks. Micro-computed tomography (micro-CT) was used to analyze bone formation in 12 animals, with additional biomechanical testing to failure and histology performed for six animals each. Micro-CT showed that bone densities were higher by a factor of 2.4 in treated graft ends compared with their controls. Biomechanical testing showed a mean overall failure load of 37.5 N. Histology showed that the trabecular bone surrounding the implant was significantly (P = 0.0087) thicker on the treated (85.5 μm) compared with the control side (68.2 μm).
CONCLUSIONS We conclude that a semitendinosus graft retaining the muscle tissue stimulated by recombinant Bone Morphogenetic Protein-2 (BMP-2) allows robust osseointegration of the graft within an oversized bone tunnel in an animal model.