Effect of Off-Axis Screw Insertion, Insertion Torque, and Plate Contouring on Locked Screw Strength

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Abstract

Objectives:

This study quantifies the effects of insertion torque, off-axis screw angulation, and plate contouring on the strength of locking plate constructs.

Methods:

Groups of locking screws (n = 6–11 screws) were inserted at 50%, 100%, 150%, and 200% of the manufacturer-recommended torque (3.2 Nm) into locking compression plates at various angles: orthogonal (control), 5-degree angle off-axis, and 10-degree angle off-axis. Screws were loaded to failure by a transverse force (parallel to the plate) either in the same (“+”) or opposite direction (“−”) of the initial screw angulation. Separately, locking plates were bent to 5 and 10-degree angles, with the bend apex at a screw hole. Locking screws inserted orthogonally into the apex hole at 100% torque were loaded to failure.

Results:

Orthogonal insertion resulted in the highest average load to failure, 2577 ± 141 N (range, 2413–2778 N), whereas any off-axis insertion significantly weakened constructs (165–1285 N, at 100% torque) (P < 0.05). For “+” loading, torque beyond 100% did not increase strength, but 50% torque reduced screw strength (P < 0.05). Loading in the “−” direction consistently resulted in higher strengths than “+” loading (P < 0.05). Plate contouring of 5-degree angle did not significantly change screw strength compared with straight plates but contouring of 10-degree angle significantly reduced load to failure (P < 0.05).

Conclusions:

To maximize the screw plate interface strength, locking screws should be inserted without cross-threading. The mechanical stability of locked screws is significantly compromised by loose insertion, off-axis insertion, or severe distortion of the locking mechanism.

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