Objective. Comparison of one-plane and two-plane external fixation in terms of successful healing, incidence of complications, and biomechanical stability in a sheep model. Background. Rigid fixation is preferred in open and comminuted fractures with a reduced blood supply, preventing infection and healing delay, but more often a flexible device is recommended even in unfavourable healing conditions, Methods. The left tibiae of fifteen sheep were osteotomized and laterally fixed with a four-screw unilateral fixator frame (axial stiffness 183 N/mm) to a 3 mm gap size. In 9 of 15 sheep, an additional four-screw unilateral external fixator was anterolaterally attached (total axial stiffness of both frames 388 N/mm). After sacrificing quality of osteotomy healing was assessed by mechanical and radiological evaluations. Osteogenesis was measured using fluorescence microscopy. Results. Two distal fractures through the pin-tracks, three non-unions and four deep infections occurred after two-plane fixation, These failures excluded, osteotomy healing showed inferior results after two-plane fixation with reduced callus formation, bone mineral content, and bending stiffness amounts, respectively. Osteogenesis was halved following two-plane fixation in the remaining sheep. Conclusions. Two-plane fixation was not sufficient to reach successful osteotomy healing in our study. While higher rigidity was expected to prevent complications, healing in this group might have been disturbed by reduced blood supply. The optimal stabilisation for a given fracture depends on many factors, including the biomechanical and biological environment.
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