A comparative biomechanical analysis of fixation devices for unstable femoral neck fractures: the Intertan versus cannulated screws or a dynamic hip screw

Martin Rupprecht, Lars Grossterlinden, Andreas H Ruecker, Alexander Novo de Oliveira, Kay Sellenschloh, Jakob Nüchtern, Klaus Püschel, Michael Morlock, Johannes Maria Rueger, Wolfgang Lehmann
Journal of Trauma 2011, 71 (3): 625-34

BACKGROUND: First introduced in 2005, the "Intertan" (IT), an intramedullary nail with two cephalocervical screws, has become an increasingly popular option for treating intertrochanteric fractures. The purpose of this study was to identify the utility of this device for stabilization of unstable femoral neck fractures compared with cannulated screws (CS) and a dynamic hip screw (DHS).

METHODS: Twenty-four human cadaveric femurs were harvested and assigned to three groups that were matched with regard to bone mineral density (BMD). Standardized Pauwels-Type-III fractures were osteomized with a custom-made saw guide and fixated by an "IT," three CS, or a DHS. All constructs were biomechanically tested in a servohydraulic testing machine with a physiologic mechanical axis loading of the femoral head (700 N), cyclical compression to 1,400 N (10,000 cycles; 2 Hz), and loading to failure. All specimens were compared with respect to the number of survived cycles, mechanical strength, head displacement, load to failure, and failure mechanism.

RESULTS: Regardless of the fixation, the mechanical strength of the stabilized femurs was significantly decreased to 71% compared with the intact femurs (100%). During cyclical testing 46% of the constructs (6 CS, 4 DHS, and 1 IT) failed. There was no difference between the mechanical strength of all survived constructs regarding the BMD, but the BMD of the failed specimens was significantly reduced compared with the surviving femurs (0.71 g/cm² ± 0.18 g/cm² vs. 1.07 g/cm² ± 0.33 g/cm²; p < 0.05). IT femurs survived significantly longer than CS specimens (IT, 9,063 cycles ± 2,480 cycles vs. CS, 3,325 cycles ± 3,885 cycles vs. DHS, 5,716 cycles ± 4,448 cycles; p < 0.01), endured higher failure loads (IT, 4,929 N ± 1,105 N vs. CS, 3,421 N ± 20 N vs. DHS, 3,505 N ± 905 N; p < 0.05), and presented a less inferior head displacement (IT, 8.5 mm ± 1.6 mm vs. CS, 16.4 mm ± 6.7 mm vs. DHS, 14.5 mm ± 6.4 mm; p < 0.05).

CONCLUSION: Our results suggest that (1) none of the tested devices restore a comparable mechanical strength in the fractured specimens compared with the intact femurs, and (2) the "IT" possesses some biomechanical benefits for internal fixation of unstable femoral neck fractures compared with DHS and CS. Because the IT constructs failed with an inferior femoral neck fracture, complicating the mandatory anchorage of a prosthetic stem in a revision operation, more biomechanical experiments using the IT in the presence of a posterior comminution defect are required, along with clinical outcome studies.

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