Background: The treatment of fracture-related infections (FRI) is still a challenge for orthopedic surgeons. The prevalence of FRI is particularly high in open fractures with extensive soft-tissue damage. This study aimed to develop a new two-step animal model for non-unions with segmental bone defects, which could be used to evaluate new innovative bone substitutes to improve the therapeutic options in humans with FRI and bone defects.
Methods: After randomization to infected or non-infected groups, 30 Sprague-Dawley rats underwent a transverse osteotomy of the mid-shaft femur with a 5 mm defect. Additionally, the periosteum at the fracture zone was cauterized at both sides. After intramedullary inoculation with 103 CFU Staphylococcus aureus (infected group) or PBS (non-infected group), a fracture stabilization was done by intramedullary K-wires. After 5 weeks, the bone healing process was evaluated, and revision surgery was performed in order to obtain increased bone healing. The initial K-wires were removed, and debridement of the osteotomy-gap was done followed by a more stable re-osteosynthesis with an angle-stable plate. After further 8 weeks all rats were euthanized and the bone consolidation was tested biomechanically and the callus formation quantitatively by micro-CT analysis.
Results: We developed and presented a new two-stage non-union animal model through a targeted S. aureus infection. After 5 weeks, all animals showed a non-union irrespective of assignment to the infected and non-infected group. Lane and Sandhu score showed a higher callus formation in the infected group. In all infected animals, the inoculated S. aureus strain was detected in the revision surgery. The second surgery did not improve bone healing, as shown by the Lane Sandhu score and in the μ-CT analysis. Similarly, biomechanical testing showed in both groups a significantly lower maximum torque as compared to the contralateral side (p < 0.0001).
Conclusions: We were able to successfully develop a new two-stage non-union animal model, which reflects a genuine clinical situation of an infection-related non-union model with segmental bone defects. This model could be used to evaluate various therapeutic anti-infectious and osteoinductive strategies in FRIs.
Keywords: Animal model; Biomechanical testing; Delayed osseous union; Micro-CT; Non-union; Osteitis; Plate osteosynthesis; Rat; Two stage procedure.