Strain Rate and Timing of Stimulation in Mechanical Modulation of Fracture Healing

  • Goodship A
  • Cunningham J
  • Kenwright J
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Abstract

Fracture of the long bones results in a repair process that has the potential to restore the anatomic morphology and mechanical integrity of the bone without scar tissue. The repair process can occur in two patterns. In the first, under conditions of rigid stabilization, direct osteonal remodeling of the fracture line can occur with little or no external callus, a process known as direct bone repair. The second pattern of repair involves bridging of the fragments with external callus and formation of bone in the fracture site by endochondral healing. This type of repair is known as indirect bone healing and occurs under less rigid interfragmentary stabilization. The rate of healing and the extent of callus in this type of repair can be modulated by the mechanical conditions at the fracture site. Applying cyclic interfragmentary micromotion for short periods has been shown to influence the repair process significantly, and characteristics of this stimulus influence the healing response observed. In the current study, a short term interfragmentary cyclic micromovement applied at a high strain rate induced a greater amount of periosteal callus than the same stimulus applied at a low strain rate. This high strain rate stimulus applied later in the healing period significantly inhibited the progress of healing. The beneficial effect of this particular biophysic stimulus early in the healing period may be related to the viscoelastic nature of the differentiating connective tissues in the early endochondral callus. In the early endochondral callus, high rates of movement induce a greater deformation of the fracture fragments because of the stiffening of the callus. Alternatively, the transduction pathway may involve streaming potentials as a result of the high movement rate.

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Authors

  • Allen E. Goodship

  • James L. Cunningham

  • John Kenwright

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