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Effect of divergent screw fixation in vertical medial malleolus fractures

Amanatullah, Derek F. MD, PhD; Khan, Safdar N. MD; Curtiss, Shane AS; Wolinsky, Philip R. MD

The Journal of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery: March 2012 - Volume 72 - Issue 3 - p 751–754
doi: 10.1097/TA.0b013e31823b8b9f
Original Articles

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.

Sacramento, California

From the Department of Orthopedic Surgery, University of California, Davis, Sacramento, California.

Submitted: June 21, 2011, Revised: September 22, 2011, Accepted: October 5, 2011.

Address for reprints: Philip R. Wolinsky, MD, Department of Orthopedic Surgery, 4860 Y St, Suite 3800, University of California, Davis, Sacramento, CA 95817; email: philipwolinsky@hotmail.com.

© 2012 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.