Prevention of unrecognized joint penetration during internal fixation of hip fractures: a geometric model based on Steinmetz Solid

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Abstract.Unrecognized joint penetration (UJP) by screw penetration through the articular surface undetectable on routine anteroposterior (AP) and lateral radiographs can cause serious complications. We have developed a geometric model to analyze UJP, and methods for the prevention of the problem.A Steinmetz Solid (SS) is the overlapping portion between two identical, vertically intersecting cylinders. The AP and lateral radiographs of a femoral head (simplified as a sphere) are projections of two cylinder-shaped images. A screw that appears to be within the femoral head in fact only lies within the cylinder. A screw apparently within the femoral head on both AP and lateral images is only confined to the SS generated by two cylinders, but not necessarily confined to the femoral head itself. We have therefore analyzed UJP using a geometric model based on SS.The geometric basis of UJP lies in the fact that the SS is larger than the sphere (femoral head) with a volume ratio of 4: π. The theoretical risk of UJP for any screw therefore can be as high as 21.5% ((4π)/4). In reality, screws are always carefully placed to ensure a distance between the screw's tip and the edge of femoral head (tip-to-edge distance, or TED). This TED effectively lowers the risk of UJP by reducing the size of the screw-confining SS. When the SS entirely fits into (internally tangential to) the femoral head, the risk of UJP approaches zero. A TED fulfilling this requirement can be regarded as safe (approximately 0.29 × femoral head radius). With a femoral head diameter of 5 cm, the safe TED is approximately 7 mm.

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