Frontiers in Bioengineering and Biotechnology

| 2023

Simulation-based prediction of bone healing and treatment recommendations for lower leg fractures: Effects of motion, weight-bearing and fibular mechanics

Despite recent experimental and clinical progress in the treatment of tibial and fibular fractures, in clinical practice rates of delayed bone healing and non-union remain high. The aim of this study was to simulate and compare different mechanical conditions after lower leg fractures to assess the effects of postoperative motion, weight-bearing restrictions and fibular mechanics on the strain distribution and the clinical course. Based on the computed tomography (CT) data set of a real clinical case with a distal diaphyseal tibial fracture, a proximal and a distal fibular fracture, finite element simulations were run. Early postoperative motion data, recorded via an inertial measuring unit system and pressure insoles were recorded and processed to study strain. The simulations were used to compute interfragmentary strain and the von Mises stress distribution of the intramedullary nail for different treatments of the fibula, as well as several walking velocities (1.0 km/h; 1.5 km/h; 2.0 km/h) and levels of weight-bearing restriction. The simulation of the real treatment was compared to the clinical course. The results show that a high postoperative walking speed was associated with higher loads in the fracture zone. In addition, a larger number of areas in the fracture gap with forces that exceeded beneficial mechanical properties longer was observed. Moreover, the simulations showed that surgical treatment of the distal fibular fracture had an impact on the healing course, whereas the proximal fibular fracture barely mattered. Weight-bearing restrictions were beneficial in reducing excessive mechanical conditions, while it is known that it is difficult for patients to adhere to partial weight-bearing recommendations. In conclusion, it is likely that motion, weight bearing and fibular mechanics influence the biomechanical milieu in the fracture gap. Simulations may improve decisions on the choice and location of surgical implants, as well as give recommendations for loading in the postoperative course of the individual patient.


biomechanics, motion, gait analysis, prognosis of bone healing, tibial fracture, lower leg injury, fibula, finite element analysis

Institution / Department

Department of Trauma, Hand and Reconstructive Surgery, Saarland University, Saarbrücken

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