Objective - To compare the fixation rigidity of recently developed external fixation systems (EFSs) to that of the traditional Kirschner-Ehmer (KE) system. Study Design - In vitro biomechanical study. Sample Population - Five different EFSs (KE, Secur-U, small SK carbon fiber, small SK titanium, large SK carbon fiber) were assembled into 7 frame geometries to stabilize Delrin plastic rods with a 1-cm gap. Methods - External skeletal fixation (ESF) constructs were tested in axial compression, torsion, medial-lateral bending, and cranial-caudal bending. Testing was conducted within the elastic range of each fixator. Mean stiffness in each mode was determined from the slope of the linear portion of the load-deformation curve. Comparison of stiffness values of each EFS within each loading mode and frame type was performed with 1-way analysis of variance (P < .05). Results - Mean stiffness values were significantly higher for the large SK EFS in all frame types compared with KE but were equal in torsional stiffness in the double-bar type 1a frame. The small SK EFS with titanium connecting bar had greater stiffness than the KE in all modes for frame types Ia, Ia-accessory bar, and II-modified. No overall difference was detected between the KE EFS and the small SK with carbon fiber rod. The stiffness of the Secur-U type Ia frame with augmentation plate was significantly greater than the KE type Ia with accessory bar. Conclusions - The newer external fixation systems evaluated in this study provided fixation rigidity equal to or greater than that of the KE system. Clinical Relevance - EFSs with increased frame rigidity should permit the use of less complex frame designs while providing fracture stability.
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