Background: Few studies have considered hormonal influences, particularly vitamin D, on healing.
Hypothesis: Vitamin D deficiency would have a negative effect on the structure of the healing tendon-bone interface in a rat model and would result in decreased tendon attachment strength.
Study Design: Controlled laboratory study.
Methods: Vitamin D deficiency was induced in 28 male Sprague-Dawley rats using a specialized vitamin D-deficient diet and ultraviolet light restriction. Serum levels of vitamin D were measured after 6 weeks. These vitamin D-deficient animals (experimental group) plus 32 rats with normal vitamin D levels (controls) underwent unilateral detachment of the right supraspinatus tendon from the greater tuberosity of the humerus, followed by immediate repair using bone tunnel suture fixation. The animals were sacrificed at 2- and 4-week intervals after surgery for biomechanical analysis. A paired t test was used to compare serum vitamin D levels at day 0 and at 6 weeks. A nonparametric Mann-Whitney U test was used to compare load-to-failure and stiffness values between the experimental group and controls. Bone density and new bone formation at the tendon insertion site on the greater tuberosity were assessed with micro-computed tomography (CT). The organization of collagen tissue, new bone formation, vascularity at the tendon-bone interface, fibrocartilage at the tendon-bone interface, and collagen fiber continuity between the tendon and bone tissue were evaluated with safranin O and picrosirius red staining.