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Keywords:

  • Fracture healing;
  • Unreamed tibial nail;
  • External fixator;
  • Interfragmentary movements

Abstract

Locked intramedullary nailing and external fixation are alternatives for the stabilization of tibial shaft fractures. The goal of this study was to determine to what extent the mechanical conditions at the fracture site influence the healing process after unreamed tibial nailing compared to external fixation. A standardized tibial diastasis was stabilized with either a locked unreamed tibial nail or a monolateral fixator in a sheep model. Interfragmentary movements and ground reaction parameters were monitored in vivo throughout the healing period. After sacrifice, the tibiae were examined mechanically and histologically. Bending angles and axial torsion at the fracture site were larger in the nail group within the first five weeks post-operatively. Unlike the fixator group, the operated limb in the nail group did not return to full weight bearing during the treatment period. Mechanical and histomorphometrical observations showed significantly inferior bone healing in the nail group compared to the fixator group. In this study, unreamed nailing of a tibial diastasis did not provide rotational stability of the osteosynthesis and resulted in a significant delay in bone healing. © 2004 Orthopaedic Research Society. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.