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A biomechanical study comparing two fixation methods in depression fractures of the lateral tibial plateau in porcine bone

Caroline M Blakey1*, Michael Rennison2, Stephen P Guy3 and Paul M Sutton1

Author affiliations

1 Department of Orthopaedics, Sheffield Teaching Hospital NHS Trust, Herries Road, Sheffield S5 7AU, UK

2 Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of Sheffield, Sheffield S1 3JD, UK

3 Department of Orthopaedics, Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, Duckworth Lane, Bradford BD9 6RJ, UK

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Citation and License

BMC Sports Science, Medicine and Rehabilitation 2013, 5:15  doi:10.1186/2052-1847-5-15

Published: 30 August 2013



A novel method of fixation has been described for the treatment of pure depression fractures of the lateral tibial plateau. Fracture fragments are elevated through a reamed transtibial tunnel. An interference screw is then passed into the tunnel to buttress fracture fragments from beneath. This method of fixation has perceived benefits but there have been no studies to demonstrate that the technique is biomechanically sound. The aim of our study is to compare traditional parallel, subchondral screw fixation with the use of an interference screw, assessing maintenance of fracture reduction following simulated post-operative loading, and overall construct strength.


Depression fractures of the lateral tibial plateau were simulated in 14 porcine knees. Fracture fragments were elevated through a reamed transtibial tunnel and samples were randomly assigned to a fixation method. 7 knees underwent traditional fixation with parallel subcortical cannulated screws, the remainder were stabilized using a single interference screw passed through the transtibial tunnel. Following preloading, each tibia was cyclically loaded from 0 to 500 Newtons for 5,000 cycles using a Nene testing machine. Displacement of the depressed fracture fragments were measured pre and post loading. Samples were then loaded to failure to test ultimate strength of each construct.


The depression displacement of the fractures fixed using cannulated screws was on average 0.76 mm, in comparison to 0.61mm in the interference screw group (p=0.514). Mechanical failure of the cannulated screw constructs occurred at a mean of 3400 N. Failure of the transtibial interference screw constructs occurred at a mean of 1700 N (p<0.01). In both groups the mechanism of ultimate failure was splitting of the tibial plateau.


These results demonstrate the increased biomechanical strength of parallel, cannulated screws for depression fractures of the tibial plateau, however the use of a transtibial interference screw may be a viable method of fixation under physiological loads.