The ability to quantify the biomechanical integrity of tendons could provide useful information for both clinical diagnostics and for clinical follow-up in tracking functional recovery of the injured tissue. This study develops and characterizes a functional endoscopy approach for intraoperative quantification of tendon tear severity using both ex vivo and in vivo experimental models. We first verified the accuracy of endoscopic strain (i.e., tissue stretch) imaging in an ex vivo tear model by comparing endoscopic measurements against gold standard measurements with research grade optics. We then tested in vivo feasibility by endoscopically quantifying altered tissue strain distributions in a rat supraspinatus model of partial tendon tear. The endoscopic method was able to achieve diagnostically relevant levels of accuracy compared to research grade optics (mean error = 26.2 ± 19.1%), and tissue strain analysis could sensitively discern torn tendon subregions. Applying this approach to free-hand in vivo endoscopic strain measurements, we were similarly able to discern functional changes in partially torn tendons (average maximum principal strains surrounding the lesion: 5.1 ± 2.9% versus intact controls: 1.9 ± 1.4%; p = 0.023). These findings indicate that the functional endoscopic assessment of tendon mechanical integrity is not only possible but could potentially offer intraoperative arthroscopic guidance for management of tendon tears in man.

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