Effect of divergent screw fixation in vertical medial malleolus fractures

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Abstract

BACKGROUND:

This study qualified and evaluated the mechanical properties of three different screw orientations used for fixation of vertical shear fractures of the medial malleolus.

METHODS:

Identical vertical osteotomies were created in synthetic distal tibiae using a jig. The specimens were assigned to one of the three fixation groups (n = 8 per group): (1) parallel: two 40 mm length, 4.0 mm diameter screws placed parallel to each other in the transverse plane; (2) convergent: two 40 mm length, 4.0 mm diameter screws placed 25 degree convergent to each other in the transverse plane; and (3) divergent: two 40 mm length, 4.0 mm diameter screws placed 15 degree divergent to each other in the transverse plane. The specimens were tested using offset axial loading at 1 mm/s until 2 mm of displacement.

RESULTS:

The average stiffness was 102 N/mm ± 51 N/mm for the parallel group, 109 N/mm ± 37 N/mm for the convergent group, and 185 N/mm ± 73 N/mm for the divergent group. The average stiffness of the divergent group was significantly greater than either the parallel (p < 0.05) or convergent (p < 0.05) groups. The divergent group was 81.4% more stiff than the parallel group and 69.7% more stiff than the convergent group. The average load at 2 mm of displacement was 324 N ± 87 N for the parallel group, 373 N ± 95 N for the convergent group, and 512 N ± 170 N for the divergent group. The average load at failure of the divergent group was significantly (p < 0.05) greater than the parallel groups. The divergent group was required 58.0% more force at 2 mm of displacement than the parallel group and 37.3% more force at 2 mm of displacement than the convergent group.

CONCLUSION:

The use of a divergent screw pattern resulted in a stiffer fixation construct that requires more force for 2 mm of displacement when used to stabilize an osteotomy model of vertical shear medial malleolus fractures.

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