Regional healing trajectory of the patellar tendon after bone-patellar tendon-bone autograft harvest for anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction

Naoaki Ito, Haraldur B. Sigurðsson, Daniel H. Cortes, Lynn Snyder-Mackler, Karin Grävare Silbernagel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Graft site morbidities after bone-patellar tendon-bone (BPTB) autograft harvest for anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction (ACLR) negatively impacts rehabilitation. The purpose of this study was to establish tendon structural properties 1-month after BPTB autograft harvest compared to the uninvolved patellar tendon, and subsequently to quantify the healing trajectory of the patellar tendon over the course of rehabilitation. Patellar tendon morphology (ultrasound) and mechanical properties (continuous shear wave elastography) from 3 regions of the tendon (medial, lateral, central) were measured in 34 participants at 1 month, 3−4 months, and 6−9 months after ACLR. Mixed models were used to compare tendon structure between limbs at 1 month, and quantify healing over 3 timepoints. The involved patellar tendon had increased cross-sectional area and thickness in all regions 1-month after ACLR. Thickness reduced uniformly over time. Possible tendon elongation was observed and remained stable over time. Tendon viscosity was uniform across the three regions in the involved limb while the medial region had higher viscosity in the uninvolved limb, and shear modulus was elevated in all three regions at 1 month. Viscosity and shear modulus in only the central region reduced over time. Statement of Clinical Significance: The entire patellar tendon, and not just the central third, is altered after graft harvest. Tendon structure starts to normalize over time, but alterations remain especially in the central third at the time athletes are returning to sport. Early rehabilitation consisting of tendon loading protocols may be necessary to optimize biologic healing at the graft site tendon.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of Orthopaedic Research
StateAccepted/In press - 2024

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine

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