Reasons for performing study: Desmopathies of the suspensory ligament are relatively frequent and vary in prevalence over different anatomical regions. This variation may be because of regional differences in tissue characteristics.
Objective: To characterise different regions of healthy forelimb suspensory ligaments (SLs) by means of biochemical, biomechanical and histomorphological techniques.
Hypothesis: There is substantial topographical heterogeneity in the SL with respect to structural, compositional and functional characteristics.
Methods: SLs were harvested from 38 limbs and used for biochemical (n = 20), biomechanical (n = 14) and histomorphological (n = 4) evaluation. Sulphated glycosaminoglycan (S-GAG), DNA and collagen content, degree of lysyl hydroxylation and numbers of enzymatic and nonenzymatic cross-links were determined in 7 regions of the SL: lateral and medial part of the origin (OM, OL), mid-body (MB), axial and abaxial parts of the lateral and medial branches (ILAX, ILAB, IMAX and IMAB, respectively). Passive resistance to tensile loading was measured in 5 regions of the SL (all except OL and OM).
Results: DNA content was lower in OL and OM than in all other parts. GAG content was also lower in OL and OM and highest in ILAB and IMAB. Collagen content was lower in OL/OM and highest in ILAX/IMAX. Pentosidine levels were highest in OL and significantly lower in the lateral insertion (ILAX/ILAB). There were no differences in hydroxylysylpyridinoline (HP) cross-links or lysyl hydroxylation. Stiffness (P<0.01) and modulus of elasticity (P<0.01) were substantially higher in the MB region than in all other regions except for IMAB. Strain at failure was lower in the MB region (P<0.0001), resulting in a comparable force at rupture as in the other regions.
Conclusions: Matrix composition differs to a relatively limited extent between different regions of the SL. The mid-body of the ligament is stiffer than the branches, which have similar properties and relevance and mechanical differences between mid-body and branches/origin may explain some use-related differences in the prevalence of lesions.