An in vitro biomechanical study of a hinged external fixator applied to an unstable elbow
Details of the mechanical properties of hinged external fixators are essential to use the fixator properly in the clinical setting. A hinged external fixator (Dynamic Joint Distractor 2) was attached to the lateral side of 7 cadaveric elbows. Cantilever lateral bending tests were performed at 3 flexion angles in varus and valgus directions. Varied states of joint contact and axial loading were studied. Stiffness of the construct was calculated with uniaxial loading. Stiffness decreased with increased elbow flexion. Gap creation made the system less stiff. Axial loading made the system stiffer, especially in valgus testing. Stiffness in varus was approximately 4 times that in valgus. Lateral fixator application with half pins is most effective for protecting against varus-producing forces. When using the external fixator for unstable elbows, attention should be paid to the status of the articular surfaces and the integrity of the ligaments, and this should also be noted for elbow position during rehabilitation.
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