Much attention has recently been focused on rigid fixation as a method of improving fracture healing. Whether such fixation, when applied to onlay grafting, improves graft take and volume is unknown. To examine this question, we compared survival of both endochondral and membranous grafts fixed rigidly and nonrigidly in areas of low motion (snout) and high motion (femur) in a rabbit model. Gross morphology, histologic analysis, and graft volume kinetics were evaluated.
Findings demonstrate that in areas of high motion, the application of rigid fixation improves graft survival, whereas in a low-motion region, no differences in graft volume retention as a function of fixation were observed. Histologically, no differences with the method of fixation employed were seen, and similar revascularization patterns were noted. By kinetic analysis, rigid fixation appears to exert its most profound effect early in the postgraft period. Membranous bone grafts remain superior to endochondral grafts under all circumstances.
From these studies, we conclude that rigid fixation is the method of choice in all circumstances where onlay bone grafts may be exposed to motion, shear, and torsional forces.