Local Soft Tissue Compression Enhances Fracture Healing in a Rabbit Fibula


Local soft tissue compression of fractures enhances fracture healing. The mechanism remains uncertain. Past studies have focused on intermittent soft tissue compression. We report a preliminary study assessing the relationship between constant soft tissue compression and enhanced fracture healing in an osteotomy model designed to minimize confounding variables. Fibulae of nine New Zealand white rabbits were bilaterally osteotomized, openly stabilized, and fitted with spandex stockinets. Soft tissue at the osteotomy site was unilaterally compressed using a deforming element (load = 26 mmHg). The contralateral side was saved as the control and was not compressed. Osteotomies were monitored with weekly radiographs. All fibulae in both groups were healed 6 weeks postoperatively. Micro-CT analysis of bone mineral density (BMD) and bone volume (BV) was then performed on both the experimental and control sides. Radiographic measurement of transverse callus-to-shaft ratios (TCSR) was compared. BMD of the experimental callus was greater than the noncompressed controls. BV and TCSR were not different between controls and experimental osteotomies. Constant local soft tissue compression produced significant increases in BMD, but not in BV or transverse callus size, indicating significant measurable increases in callus composition without significant change in gross dimensions. Our experimental design minimizes confounding factors, such as micromotion, immobilization, and altered venous flow, suggesting that these are not the primary mechanisms for fracture healing enhancement. Further studies with more animals and study groups are necessary to confirm efficacy and identify optimal compression pressures and schedules.

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Correspondence to Joseph M. Lane MD.

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The authors have received funding from The Hospital for Special Surgery and Bay Orthopedic and Rehabilitation Supply Co. Inc.

Each author certifies that his or her institution has approved the animal protocol for this investigation and that all investigations were conducted in conformity with ethical principles of research.

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Morr, S., Chisena, E.C., Tomin, E. et al. Local Soft Tissue Compression Enhances Fracture Healing in a Rabbit Fibula. HSS Jrnl 6, 43–48 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11420-009-9142-7

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  • soft tissue compression
  • fracture healing
  • osteotomy
  • bone mineral density (BMD)
  • bone volume (BV)
  • micro-CT