Effects of immobilization on achilles tendon healing in a rat model

George A.C. Murrell, Edward G. Lilly, Richard D. Goldner, Anthony V. Seaber, Thomas M. Best

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

70 Scopus citations


The aim of this study was to evaluate the effects of immobilization and mobilization on the functional and biomechanical recovery of injured Achilles tendons. Male Sprague‐Dawley rats were allocated randomly into four groups: (a) sham operation, (b) division only (surgical transection of the Achilles tendon without immobilization), (c) “dummy” external fixation (division of the Achilles tendon and application of Kirschner wires), and (d) rigid external fixation (division of the Achilles tendon and immobilization with Kirschner wires connected by two triangular frames). All procedures were performed on the right lower limb; the left, uninjured, lower limb served as an internal control. Kirschner wires and external fixators were removed on day 12. Functional performance was determined from measurements of hind pawprints of rats walking preoperatively and on postoperative days 1, 3, 5, 7, 9, 11, 13, and 15. On day 15, the animals were killed and biomechanical evaluations were performed on both the injured and the uninjured Achilles tendon constructs. No functional or mechanical deficits were observed in the sham‐operation group. Animals subjected to division of the Achilles tendon had an initial functional deficit that returned to near normal by day 15. The application of Kirschner wires was associated with an impairment of the functional performance of the rat as well as of the mechanical properties of the tendon‐bone constructs. Immobilization by connection of the Kirschner wires to an external frame had an additional, highly significant (p < 0.001) detrimental effect on the functional and mechanical recovery of Achilles tendon‐calcaneal complexes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)582-591
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Orthopaedic Research
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 1994
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine


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