Background: Several strategies to reduce construct stiffness have been proposed to promote secondary bone healing following fracture fixation with locked bridge plating constructs. However, stiffness reduction is typically gained at the cost of construct strength. In the present study, we tested whether a novel strategy for stiffness reduction, termed far cortical locking, can significantly reduce the stiffness of a locked plating construct while retaining its strength.
Methods: Locked plating constructs and far cortical locking constructs were tested in a diaphyseal bridge plating model of the non-osteoporotic femoral diaphysis to determine construct stiffness in axial compression, torsion, and bending. Subsequently, constructs were dynamically loaded until failure in each loading mode to determine construct strength and failure modes. Finally, failure tests were repeated in a validated model of the osteoporotic femoral diaphysis to determine construct strength and failure modes in a worst-case scenario of bridge plating in osteoporotic bone.
Results: Compared with the locked plating constructs, the initial stiffness of far cortical locking constructs was 88% lower in axial compression (p < 0.001), 58% lower in torsion (p < 0.001), and 29% lower in bending (p < 0.001). Compared with the locked plating constructs, the strength of far cortical locking constructs was 7% lower (p = 0.005) and 16% lower (p < 0.001) under axial compression in the non-osteoporotic and osteoporotic diaphysis, respectively. However, far cortical locking constructs were 54% stronger (p < 0.001) and 9% stronger (p = 0.04) under torsion and 21% stronger (p < 0.001) and 20% stronger (p = 0.02) under bending than locked plating constructs in the non-osteoporotic and osteoporotic diaphysis, respectively. Within the initial stiffness range, far cortical locking constructs generated nearly parallel interfragmentary motion. Locked plating constructs generated significantly less motion at the near cortex adjacent to the plate than at the far cortex (p < 0.01).
Conclusions: Far cortical locking significantly reduces the axial stiffness of a locked plating construct. This gain in flexibility causes only a modest reduction in axial strength and increased torsional and bending strength.
Clinical Relevance: Far cortical locking may provide a novel bridge plating strategy to enhance interfragmentary motion for the promotion of secondary bone healing while retaining sufficient construct strength.