Intact fibula improves fracture healing in a rat tibia osteotomy model

J Orthop Res. 2005 Mar;23(2):489-93. doi: 10.1016/j.orthres.2004.08.007.


Rat tibia fractures are often used in fracture healing studies. Usually the fracture is stabilized with an intramedullary pin, which provides bending stiffness, but little torsional stiffness. The objective of this research was to determine the in vitro torsional rigidity of an osteotomized tibia with and without the fibula, and to determine if this difference influences the healing process in vivo. In vitro eleven rat tibias received an osteotomy, were stabilized with an intramedullary pin, and were tested in internal rotation to determine the torsional rigidity. The fibula was then manually broken and the torsional rigidity measured again. In vivo 18 rats received a tibial osteotomy, eight of which had an additional fractured fibula. After three weeks, the rats were sacrificed and the tibias were analyzed. Bone density in the fracture callus was measured with qCT. Bending rigidity and maximum breaking moment were determined in three-point bending. In vitro testing demonstrated that the torsional rigidity with an intact fibula was nearly two times higher than when the fibula was fractured. Though the torsional rigidity was still small in comparison with an intact bone, it resulted in a significantly different healing process in vivo. Rats with intact fibulas had significantly higher bone mineral density, bending rigidity, and maximum breaking moment compared to rats with a fractured fibula. These results indicate that torsional stability considerably affects the healing process. In a fracture model, it is critical to characterize the mechanical environment of the fracture.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bone Density
  • Fibula / physiology*
  • Fracture Healing*
  • Male
  • Osteotomy
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Tibial Fractures / physiopathology*
  • Torsion Abnormality