Assessment of external fixator reusability using load- and cycle-dependent tests

Clin Orthop Relat Res. 2003 Jan:(406):275-81. doi: 10.1097/01.blo.0000037443.23683.7c.


No standard method has been established for investigating repeated use of an external fixator. The purpose of the current study was to establish a fatigue testing method for assessing fixator frame reuse. A unilateral DynaFix trade mark external fixator system was tested using high-load and low-cycle (900-150 N at 5 Hz) and low-load and high-cycle (450-100 N at 10 Hz) tests (assumed one use of 500,000 and 1 million cycles, respectively). These loading conditions were selected to simulate single clinical use and to satisfy Food and Drug Administration requirements. In the high-load low-cycle test, substantial failure of the serrated joint occurred before completion of the first simulated use. In the low-load high-cycle test, all fixators completed three simulated clinical uses without failure, although (1/4) of the serrated joint components had hairline cracks. The high-load low-cycle test identified the fixator components which should be examined and replaced if reuse of the fixator is to be considered. Wear and deformation of the set screw on the rotary joint and telescoping mechanisms were observed in the low-load high-cycle test but not in the high-load low-cycle test. Therefore, if the unilateral DynaFix trade mark fixators are being considered for reusability, the number of reuses should be limited as the whole structure of the device will experience fatigue damage as the loading cycle increases.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Analysis of Variance
  • Equipment Reuse*
  • External Fixators*
  • Prosthesis Design
  • Prosthesis Failure
  • Stress, Mechanical
  • Torque