Optimal internal fixation of anatomically shaped synthetic bone grafts for massive segmental defects of long bones

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Abstract

Background:

Large segmental bone defects following tumor resection, high-energy civilian trauma, and military blast injuries present significant clinical challenges. Tissue engineering strategies using scaffolds are being considered as a treatment, but there is little research into optimal fixation of such scaffolds.

Methods:

Twelve fresh-frozen paired cadaveric legs were utilized to simulate a critical sized intercalary defect in the tibia. Poly-ε-caprolactone and hydroxyapatite composite scaffolds 5 cm in length with a geometry representative of the mid-diaphysis of an adult human tibia were fabricated, inserted into a tibial mid-diaphyseal intercalary defect, and fixed with a 14-hole large fragment plate. Optimal screw fixation comparing non-locking and locking screws was tested in axial compression, bending, and torsion in a non-destructive manner. A cyclic torsional test to failure under torque control was then performed.

Findings:

Biomechanical testing showed no significant difference for bending or axial stiffness with non-locking vs. locking fixation. Torsional stiffness was significantly higher (P = 0.002) with the scaffold present for both non-locking and locking compared to the scaffold absent. In testing to failure, angular rotation was greater for the non-locking compared to locking constructs at each torque level up to 40 N-m (P < 0.05). The locking constructs survived a significantly higher number of loading cycles before reaching clinical failure at 30 degrees of angular rotation (P < 0.02).

Interpretation:

The presence of the scaffold increased the torsional stiffness of the construct. Locking fixation resulted in a stronger construct with increased cycles to failure compared to non-locking fixation.

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