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Duration of postoperative immobilization affects MMP activity at the healing graft-bone interface: Evaluation in a mouse ACL reconstruction model.

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Excessive MMP activity may impair tendon-to-bone healing. However, little is known about the effect of joint motion on MMP activity after ACL reconstruction. The aim of this study was to determine the effect of different durations of knee immobilization on MMP activity in a mouse ACL reconstruction model using a fluorescent MMP probe which detects MMP 2, 3, 9, and 13 and near-infra red in vivo imaging. Sixty C57BL male mice underwent ACL reconstruction. Post-operatively, the animals were treated with free cage activity (Group 1), or with the use of an external fixator to restrict knee motion and weight bearing for 5 days (Group 2), 14 days (Group 3), and 28 days (Group 4). At days 3, 7, 16, 23, and 30, five mice underwent IVIS imaging. At days 3, 7, 16, and 30, histological analysis was also performed. Probe signal intensity in the whole limb peaked at day 7, followed by a decrease at day 16, and maintenance up to day 30. There was no significant difference among groups at any time point based on IVIS, but histologic localization of MMP probe signal showed significantly less activity in Group 2 and Group 3 compared to Group 4 in the bone tunnel at day 30. We demonstrated that short-term immobilization led to less MMP activity around the bone tunnel compared with prolonged immobilization. A short period of immobilization after ACL reconstruction might enhance graft-bone interface healing by mitigating excess MMP expression. These findings have implications for post-operative rehabilitation protocols following ACL reconstruction. © 2018 Orthopaedic Research Society. Published by Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Orthop Res 37:325-334, 2019.

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