PURPOSE: The state-of-the-art tendon transfer surgery for high median-ulnar nerve palsy involves directly suturing four finger flexor tendons to one wrist extensor muscle. This couples finger flexion limiting the patient's ability to grasp objects. Therefore, we propose a new approach to attach a novel passive implant to the extensor digitorum longus tendon in order to create a differential mechanism in situ. The implant is expected to enable the fingers to adapt to an object's shape during grasping. Chickens have been used as a model in tendon research, but studies have primarily focused on the digital flexor tendon mechanism. Thus, the aim of this study was to explore the feasibility of the chicken model for extensor tendon research and to validate the surgical technique for a new approach to tendon transfer surgery.
MATERIALS AND METHODS: Twenty-nine chickens were randomly divided into three groups: implant (n = 12), sham (n = 10), and control (n = 7). Postoperative healing and complications were documented.
RESULTS: Surgery was successful in all chickens. All animals healed appropriately by Day 16 postoperatively. Chickens in the implant group experienced significantly more intermittent toe-knuckling gait than the sham group (p = 0.001).
CONCLUSIONS: The described surgical technique allowed for successful application of a novel implantable passive mechanism in a live chicken model. In combination with previous work, findings from the present study further validated a novel tendon-transfer surgery for high median-ulnar nerve palsy. Based on the degree of intermittent abnormal gait experienced by the implant group, refinement to the implant design is warranted in future studies.