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Soft-Tissue Allografts Terminally Sterilized with an Electron Beam Are Biomechanically Equivalent to Aseptic, Nonsterilized Tendons

Elenes, Egleide Y. MS; Hunter, Shawn A. PhD

Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery - American Volume: 20 August 2014 - Volume 96 - Issue 16 - p 1321–1326
doi: 10.2106/JBJS.L.00841
Scientific Articles
Supplementary Content

Background: Allograft safety is contingent on effective sterilization. However, current sterilization methods have been associated with decreased biomechanical strength and higher failure rates of soft-tissue allografts. In this study, electron beam (e-beam) sterilization was explored as an alternative sterilization method to preserve biomechanical integrity. We hypothesized that e-beam sterilization would not significantly alter the biomechanical properties of tendon allograft compared with aseptic, nonsterilized controls and gamma-irradiated grafts.

Methods: Separate sets of forty fresh-frozen tibialis tendon allografts (four from each of ten donors) and forty bisected bone-patellar tendon-bone (BTB) allografts (four from each of ten donors) were randomly assigned to four study groups. One group received a 17.1 to 21.0-kGy gamma radiation dose; two other groups were sterilized with an e-beam at either a high (17.1 to 21.0-kGy) or low (9.2 to 12.2-kGy) dose. A fourth group served as nonsterilized controls. Each graft was cyclically loaded to 200 N of tension for 2000 cycles at a frequency of 2 Hz, allowed to relax for five minutes, and then tested in tension until failure at a 100%/sec strain rate. One-way analysis of variance testing was used to identify significant differences.

Results: Tibialis tendons sterilized with both e-beam treatments and with gamma irradiation exhibited values for cyclic tendon elongation, maximum load, maximum displacement, stiffness, maximum stress, maximum strain, and elastic modulus that were not significantly different from those of nonsterilized controls. BTB allografts sterilized with the high e-beam dose and with gamma irradiation were not significantly different in cyclic tendon elongation, maximum load, maximum displacement, stiffness, maximum stress, maximum strain, and elastic modulus from nonsterilized controls. BTB allografts sterilized with the e-beam at the lower dose were significantly less stiff than nonsterilized controls (p = 0.014) but did not differ from controls in any other properties. The difference in stiffness likely resulted from variations in tendon size rather than the treatments, as the elastic moduli of the groups were similar.

Conclusions: The biomechanical properties of tibialis and BTB allografts sterilized with use of an e-beam at a dose range of 17.1 to 21.0 kGy were not different from those of aseptic, nonsterilized controls or gamma-irradiated allografts.

Clinical Relevance: E-beam sterilization can be a viable method to produce safe and biomechanically uncompromised soft-tissue allografts.

1School of Biomedical Engineering and Sciences, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, 317 ICTAS, Stanger Street (0298), Blacksburg, VA 24061. E-mail address:

2Department of Research and Development, Community Tissue Services, 2900 College Drive, Kettering, OH 45420. E-mail address:

Copyright 2014 by The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, Incorporated
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