, Volume 8, Issue 1, pp 26-31

Insertion of autologous tendon grafts to the bone: a histological and immunohistochemical study of hamstring and patellar tendon grafts

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This study examined the structure of the insertion of autologous tendon grafts used for anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction. Biopsy specimens of the femoral ¶and tibial bone graft interface were obtained at revision surgery in 14 patients (6 with hamstring grafts, 8 with a patella tendon graft). The specimens were analyzed by light microscopy and immunohistochemistry (confirming type I, type II, and type III collagen). The insertions of hamstring autografts to the bone tunnel have three characteristic histological zones. Zone 1 is composed of the dense connective tissue of the graft. The collagen fibers of the graft enter the bone under oblique angles. Zone 2 is composed of woven bone with ¶a sharp transition to the lamellar bone of the tibia (zone 3). Immunohistochemistry revealed the presence of type I and type III collagen within the dense connective tissue of the graft. The woven and lamellar bone showed positive immunostaining for antibodies against type I collagen only. This structure resembled a fibrous ligament or tendon insertion. In the majority of patients with a patella tendon graft the structure of the insertion resembled a chondral enthesis. The chondral insertion of the graft to the bone is composed of four characteristic zones. Between the dense connective tissue of the graft (zone 1) and bone (zone 4) there is a zone of fibrocartilage (zone 2). Close to the bone the fibrocartilage is mineralized (zone 3). Within the fibrocartilage the immunohistochemical analysis confirmed type II collagen. This structure resembled the chondral enthesis of the normal anterior cruciate ligament. However, in cases in which the distal bone bloc has been fixated outside the tibial tunnel, the tibial insertion of the patellar tendon graft resembled a fibrous insertion. While both types of tendon grafts heal to the bone of femur and tibia, the insertion of patella tendon grafts healing by bone plug incorporation resembles the chondral insertion of the normal anterior cruciate ligament and may have a more physiological connection to the bone than hamstring grafts.

Received: 9 March 1999/Accepted: 3 August 1999