Experimental Validation of the Radiographic Union Score for Tibial Fractures (RUST) Using Micro-Computed Tomography Scanning and Biomechanical Testing in an in-Vivo Rat Model

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Abstract

Background:

The Radiographic Union Score for Tibial fractures (RUST) and the modified version of the system, mRUST, are popular standards for assessing fracture-healing progress with use of radiographs. To our knowledge, this is the first study to experimentally validate the ability of RUST and mRUST to accurately assess bone-healing progression with use of both micro-computed tomography (micro-CT) scanning and biomechanical testing.

Methods:

Adult male rats (n = 29) underwent osteotomy with a midshaft fracture gap repaired with use of a polyetheretherketone plate. Anteroposterior and lateral radiographs were made of the repaired femora prior to rat death at end points of 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, and 17 weeks, and 2 fellowship-trained orthopaedic trauma surgeons independently assigned RUST and mRUST scores to repaired femora. The repaired and intact contralateral femora were then dissected. Bones underwent dissection, micro-CT scanning, and biomechanical torsion testing at the end points.

Results:

RUST scores ranged from 5 to 12 and mRUST scores ranged from 5 to 16. Intraclass correlation coefficients (ICCs) were 0.89 (95% confidence interval [CI]: 0.78 to 0.94) for RUST and 0.86 (95% CI: 0.74 to 0.93) for mRUST, which fall within the “almost perfect agreement” category for ICCs. Spearman rank correlation coefficients (RS) showed correlation of RUST (RS range, 0.456 to 0.818) and mRUST (RS range, 0.519 to 0.862) with micro-CT measurements of mineralized callus volume (BV), total callus volume (TV), and BV/TV ratio, but less so with bone mineral density (BMD). Additionally, RUST (RS range, 0.524 to 0.863) and mRUST (RS range, 0.434 to 0.850) were correlated with some biomechanical properties. A RUST score of 10 or an mRUST score of 15 may be considered the threshold above which a plated bone is “healed” because, at these scores, 120% or 140% of failure torque, respectively, was achieved by the repaired femora as compared with the intact contralateral femora.

Conclusions:

RUST and mRUST both show strong statistical correlations with micro-CT and biomechanical parameters.

Clinical Relevance:

RUST and mRUST scoring systems provide clinicians with validated, reliable, and available tools to assess the progress of fracture-healing.

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