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The hamstring tendon is the most commonly used autograft material in reconstructive surgeries of anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tears. Younger patients have worse surgical outcomes, with a higher risk of re-rupture. We hypothesized that age-related changes in hamstring tendon properties affect the tendon's propensity to rupture when used as an autograft in ACL reconstructions. The purpose of this study was to compare hamstring tendon samples obtained from people aged 20 years or younger to samples obtained from older people. Superfluous hamstring tendon material was collected from 13 young donors (aged 16-20 years) and 17 older donors undergoing ACL reconstructive surgery. Sections of the tendon samples were used for biomechanical testing, structural analysis of collagen fibrils by electron microscopy, and global analysis of gene expression by microarrays. We found that tendon samples from the older group had lower Young's modulus than the younger group (P = 0.015), whereas the stress to failure was similar in the two groups. We found no difference in the average diameter of collagen fibrils between the two groups. Microarray analysis identified 162 differentially expressed genes (fold change ≥ 1.5, P < 0.05), with overrepresentation of several biological processes, including regulation of adhesion, migration, inflammation, and differentiation (fold enrichment > 2.0, false discovery rate P < 0.05). The hamstring tendon from younger people has higher stiffness than tendon from older people, and the profile of gene expression in tendon varies with age. These differences may negatively affect the performance of the hamstring tendon in ACL reconstructions in younger people. © 2021. The Author(s) under exclusive licence to SICOT aisbl.


Dorit Naot, Ally J Choi, Matthew Street, Madison Pronk, Alex Zhao, Ashvin Thambyah, Ryan Gao, Jillian Cornish, Nicola Dalbeth, Brendan Coleman, David S Musson. Age-related differences in hamstring tendon used as autograft in reconstructive anterior cruciate ligament surgery. International orthopaedics. 2022 Apr;46(4):845-853

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PMID: 35059770

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