Biomechanical comparison of the pullout properties of external skeletal fixation pins in the tibiae of intact and ovariectomised ewes.

The pin-bone interface is the least stable component of the external skeletal fixator. Concerns exist regarding the ability to obtain adequate implant purchase in poor quality bone. Consequently, reduced bone quality has been viewed as a contra-indication for the use of external skeletal fixators. The aim of this study was to investigate the holding power of two different fixator pin designs in bone from entire and ovariectomised sheep. Thirty-two aged ewes were divided into two groups. Group 1 were controls, and Group 2 were ovariectomised (OVX). The ewes were sacrificed 12 months post-ovariectomy and five pairs of tibiae were harvested from each group. The holding power of cortical and cancellous fixator pins was assessed at five standardised locations on each tibia. An increase in mean cortical thickness was noted in the OVX group. The holding power of cancellous fixator pins was superior to that of cortical pins, irrespective of whether or not ovariectomy had been performed. Cancellous pins had an increased holding power in post ovariectomy bone compared to control bone. Cortical pin performance was not affected by ovariectomy. There was a lack of correlation between the incidence of insertional fractures of the far cortex and implant holding power. The results raise questions over the effectiveness of ovariectomy in establishing osteopaenic bone suitable for assessing implant performance, hence further investigations are warranted.