We investigated the influence of freezing on the tensile strength of fresh frozen tendon grafts. The biomechanical characteristics of tendons that are less commonly used in knee surgery (tibialis anterior, tibialis posterior, peroneus longus and medial and lateral half of Achilles tendons) were compared to those of a semitendinosus and gracilis graft harvested from the same 10 multi-organ donors. All right side tendons constituted the study group and were frozen at –80°C and thawed at room temperature 5 times. All left side tendons were frozen at –80°C and thawed at room temperature once. There were 59 tendons in the control group and 56 in the study group. The looped grafts were clamped at one side using a custom-made freeze clamp and loaded until failure on an Instron 4505 testing machine. The average ultimate failure load was not significantly different between the control and the study group (p?>?0.05). The failure load of the medial tendon Achilles was the lowest in both study and control group (p??0.05). From our study, we conclude that freezing tendons at –80°C and thawing several times does not influence the maximum load, maximum stress, maximum displacement, maximum strain and stiffness. The medial half of the Achilles tendon is clearly the weakest tendon (p<0.001).
Tendon grafts can be frozen at –80°C and thawed at room temperature several times without altering their biomechanical properties.