Comparison of 4 Methods for Dynamization of Locking Plates: Differences in the Amount and Type of Fracture Motion

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Abstract

Background:

Decreasing the stiffness of locked plating constructs can promote natural fracture healing by controlled dynamization of the fracture. This biomechanical study compared the effect of 4 different stiffness reduction methods on interfragmentary motion by measuring axial motion and shear motion at the fracture site.

Methods:

Distal femur locking plates were applied to bridge a metadiaphyseal fracture in femur surrogates. A locked construct with a short-bridge span served as the nondynamized control group (LOCKED). Four different methods for stiffness reduction were evaluated: replacing diaphyseal locking screws with nonlocked screws (NONLOCKED); bridge dynamization (BRIDGE) with 2 empty screw holes proximal to the fracture; screw dynamization with far cortical locking (FCL) screws; and plate dynamization with active locking plates (ACTIVE). Construct stiffness, axial motion, and shear motion at the fracture site were measured to characterize each dynamization methods.

Results:

Compared with LOCKED control constructs, NONLOCKED constructs had a similar stiffness (P = 0.08), axial motion (P = 0.07), and shear motion (P = 0.97). BRIDGE constructs reduced stiffness by 45% compared with LOCKED constructs (P < 0.001), but interfragmentary motion was dominated by shear. Compared with LOCKED constructs, FCL and ACTIVE constructs reduced stiffness by 62% (P < 0.001) and 75% (P < 0.001), respectively, and significantly increased axial motion, but not shear motion.

Conclusions:

In a surrogate model of a distal femur fracture, replacing locked with nonlocked diaphyseal screws does not significantly decrease construct stiffness and does not enhance interfragmentary motion. A longer bridge span primarily increases shear motion, not axial motion. The use of FCL screws or active plating delivers axial dynamization without introducing shear motion.

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