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J Shoulder Elbow Surg. 2012 Feb;21(2):149-57. doi: 10.1016/j.jse.2011.10.023.

Measurement of in vivo tendon function.

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Bone and Joint Center, Henry Ford Hospital, Detroit, MI 48202, USA.


Chronic tendon pathologies (eg, rotator cuff tears, Achilles tendon ruptures) are common, painful, debilitating, and a significant source of medical expense. Treatment strategies for managing tendon pathologies vary widely in invasiveness and cost, with little scientific basis on which to base treatment selection. Conventional techniques for assessing the outcomes of physical therapy or surgical repair typically rely on patient-based assessments of pain and function, physical measures (eg, strength, range of motion, or stability), and qualitative assessments using magnetic resonance imaging or ultrasound. Unfortunately, these conventional techniques provide only an indirect assessment of tendon function. The inability to make a direct quantitative assessment of the tendon's mechanical capabilities may help to explain the relatively high rate of failed tendon repairs and has led to an interest in the development of tools for directly assessing in vivo tendon function. The purpose of this article is to review methods for assessing tendon function (ie, mechanical properties and capabilities) during in vivo activities. This review will describe the general principles behind the experimental techniques and provide examples of previous applications of these techniques. In addition, this review will characterize the advantages and limitations of each technique, along with its potential clinical utility. Future efforts should focus on developing broadly translatable technologies for quantitatively assessing in vivo tendon function. The ability to accurately characterize the in vivo mechanical properties of tendons would improve patient care by allowing for the systematic development and assessment of new techniques for treating tendon pathologies.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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