What is the significance of tendon suture purchase?
Repairs have been performed on porcine flexor tendons and subjected to tensile stress measurements to determine the effects and mechanism of core suture purchase (the length of the suture bite). Eighty-four pig trotter flexor profundus tendons were divided and repaired using four lengths of core suture purchase (1.33, 1, 0.66 and 0.33 cm) using a double modified Kessler repair (four strands, two knots) with a peripheral epitendinous suture. Tendon purchase was achieved by either bilateral equal purchase lengths or with one tendon purchase at a fixed depth of 1 cm. A separate group of tendons were incubated in blood for 24 hours to simulate the wound environment prior to testing. Tensile tests demonstrated a progressive increase of repair strength with purchase length. With the exception of the 0.33 cm group, video analysis demonstrated the mode of failure as suture failure and not due to suture pullout. Therefore, the increase in breaking strength cannot be attributed to a better grip of the tendon ends, but to the mechanical characteristics of the suture polymer. The tendency for the incubated tendons to fail more consistently by pullout rather than suture failure, particularly in the shorter purchase lengths, emphasises the importance of studying tendon purchase in vivo. The significance of ex vivo mechanical testing should be considered with caution.