Does plugging unused combination screw holes improve the fatigue life of fixation with locking plates in comminuted supracondylar fractures of the femur?

R. Firoozabadi, E. McDonald, T-Q. Nguyen, J. M. Buckley, U. Kandemir

Abstract

Filling the empty holes in peri-articular locking plates may improve the fatigue strength of the fixation. The purpose of this in vitro study was to investigate the effect of plugging the unused holes on the fatigue life of peri-articular distal femoral plates used to fix a comminuted supracondylar fracture model.

A locking/compression plate was applied to 33 synthetic femurs and then a 6 cm metaphyseal defect was created (AO Type 33-A3). The specimens were then divided into three groups: unplugged, plugged with locking screw only and fully plugged holes. They were then tested using a stepwise or run-out fatigue protocol, each applying cyclic physiological multiaxial loads.

All specimens in the stepwise group failed at the 770 N load level. The mean number of cycles to failure for the stepwise specimen was 25 500 cycles (sd 1500), 28 800 cycles (sd 6300), and 26 400 cycles (sd 2300) cycles for the unplugged, screw only and fully plugged configurations, respectively (p = 0.16). The mean number of cycles to failure for the run-out specimens was 42 800 cycles (sd 10 700), 36 000 cycles (sd 7200), and 36 600 cycles (sd 10 000) for the unplugged, screw only and fully plugged configurations, respectively (p = 0.50). There were also no differences in axial or torsional stiffness between the constructs. The failures were through the screw holes at the level of comminution.

In conclusion, filling the empty combination locking/compression holes in peri-articular distal femur locking plates at the level of supracondylar comminution does not increase the fatigue life of the fixation in a comminuted supracondylar femoral fracture model (AO 33-A3) with a 6 cm gap.

Footnotes

  • The authors would like to thank P. Kramer, PhD, Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology from University of Washington, Seattle, for assistance in editing the manuscript.

    No benefits in any form have been received or will be received from a commercial party related directly or indirectly to the subject of this article.

  • Received May 4, 2011.
  • Accepted October 4, 2011.
View Full Text

Log in through your institution