Physeal fractures and resultant physeal bars can pose significant problems in skeletal development for the injured growing child. Although now well-recognized, only a small body of experimental literature covering this problem is available. The goal of this study was to help further develop an understanding of the different regions of the physis and the way in which each region responds to injury/fracture.
This Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC)-approved study assessed bar formation using radiologic and histologic methods and measured leg lengths of skeletally immature rats. The right tibia was used as the control to measure leg length discrepancy (LLD), and the left tibia received either a fracture only (F), an epiphyseal scrape (ES), an epiphyseal drilling procedure (ED), or metaphyseal drilling (MD). Radiographs and LLD measurements were obtained at postoperative days 0, 21, and 56.
A significant LLD was present at day 56 in the ED group (P=0.01). Radiographic identification of bars showed significant evidence of bar formation for the ES and ED groups at 21 days and the ED group at 56 days (P<0.05). Histologic examination showed a high incidence of histologic physeal bar formation in the ES, ED, and MD groups at 21 and 56 days.
Findings showed that the physis was able to continue to grow following an injury to the physis’ hypertrophic region. MD produced little effects with few physeal bars and little LLD. By postoperative day 56, ED animals showed greater LLD than ES animals. Penetration of the basement plate was more likely to lead to bar formation/growth retardation than was ablation of the epiphyseal region of the physis (including resting cells).
Data presented here provides insight into the importance of different regions of the physis and its repair/continued growth after physeal fracture. We suggest that a better understanding of the physiological cause of physeal arrest after physeal fracture will be important for the development of treatments to prevent physeal arrest or to treat physeal arrest after it occurs.