Morbidity associated with femur fractures in polytrauma patients is known to be high. The many unsolved clinical questions include the immunological effect of the fracture and its fixation, timing of fracture fixation, management of fracture non-union, effect of infection and critical size of bone defects. The aim of this study was to establish a clinically-relevant and reproducible animal model with regards to histological, biomechanical and radiological changes during bone healing. A custom-designed intramedullary nail with interlocking system (RabbitNail, RISystem AG, Davos Platz, Switzerland) was used for fixation, following femur fracture. New Zealand White rabbits were assigned to two groups: 1. closed fracture model (CF; non-survival model: n = 6, survival model: n = 3) with unilateral mid-shaft femur fracture created by blunt force; 2. osteotomy model (OT; survival model: n = 14) with unilateral transverse osteotomy creating femur fracture. There were no intraoperative complications and full-weight bearing was achieved in all survival rabbits. Significant periosteal reaction and callus formation were confirmed from 2 weeks postoperatively, with a significant volume formation (739.59 ± 62.14 mm3) at 8 weeks confirmed by micro-computed tomography (µ-CT). 2 months after fixation, there was no difference between the osteotomised and contralateral control femora in respect to the maximum torque (3.47 ± 0.35 N m vs. 3.26 ± 0.37 N m) and total energy (21.11 ± 3.09 N m × degree vs. 20.89 ± 2.63 N m × degree) required to break the femur. The data confirmed that a standardised internal fixation technique with an intramedullary nail for closed fracture or osteotomy produced satisfactory bone healing. It was concluded that important clinically-relevant studies can be conducted using this rabbit model.
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- Animal model
- Fracture healing
- Intramedullary nailing