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Evaluation of bone healing process after intramedullary nailing for femoral shaft fracture by quantitative computed tomography-based finite element analysis

      Highlights

      • Quantitative CT-based finite element model with inhomogeneous material for callus.
      • Pilot study on quantitative assessment of the bone healing process.
      • Trial of criteria for intramedullary nail removal based on healthy side strength.

      Abstract

      Background

      There is no proven method for quantitative evaluation of bone healing progress or decision to remove the nail after intramedullary nailing for femoral shaft fractures. Finite element analysis has become commonly utilized in bone analysis, but it may also be used to evaluate callus. The goal of this study was to use quantitative CT-based finite element analysis to assess the bone healing process and predict bone strength with the nail removed.

      Methods

      Quantitative CT-based finite element analysis was conducted on CT images from patients who had intramedullary nailing after a femoral shaft fracture at 6, 12, and 15 months postoperatively. The failure risk of the callus was evaluated with maximal load throughout the gait cycle. The tensile failure ratio was calculated using the volume ratio of the callus element with a tensile failure risk ≥100%. A virtual model with the nail removed was built for bone strength study, and the strength was calculated using the displacement-load curve.

      Findings

      The tensile failure ratio reduced with time, reaching 11.6%, 2.6%, and 0.5% at 6, 12, and 15 months postoperatively, respectively, consistent with bone healing inferred from imaging results. At 15 months, the bone strength at nail removal grew to 212, 2670, and 3385 N, surpassing the healthy side's 2766 N.

      Interpretation

      Quantitative CT-based finite element analysis enables mechanical assessment during the bone healing process and is expected to be applied to the selection of revision surgery. It is also applicable to the nail removal decision.

      Keywords

      Abbreviations:

      CT (computed tomography), QCT/FEA (quantitative computed tomography-based finite element analysis), HA (hydroxyapatite)
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