Objectives - To compare the axial mechanical stability of 3 circular external fixators systems with and without hemispheric washers. Study Design - Experimental study. Methods - The axial stiffness and load necessary to produce 0.5 and 1 mm of displacement of 10 circular external fixator constructs from 3 manufacturers were tested on a materials testing machine. The constructs tested included the Small Bone fixator (SBF; Hofmann S.a.S., Monza, Italy), the IMEX ring fixator (IMEX Inc., Longview, TX), and the Multiplanar C-Fix (MCF; PanVet Distribuzione, Seriate, Italy). Five configurations were tested for each construct: (1) conventional nut fixation, (2) hemispheric washer fixation with connecting rods offset by 0, (3) 1, and (4) 2 holes, and (5) with a ring placed at maximum angulation. Results - The loads resisted at 0.5 and 1 mm of displacement did not differ when frame configurations were compared (P = .25733 and .33769, respectively). The linear stiffness of the following configurations were decreasingly stiff: standard constructs, hemispheric washers with connecting rods perpendicular to rings, hemispheric washers with connecting rods offset by 1 hole, hemispheric washers with connecting rods offset by 2 holes, and ring offset in relation to bone model. The SBF constructs tested were 34% and 41% more rigid than the IMEX and MCF constructs tested despite the larger diameter of the connecting rods for the IMEX frames (6 mm) compared with the SBF frames (5 mm). The IMEX constructs tested were 6% more rigid than the MCF constructs tested. Conclusions - Adding hemispheric washers and angling connecting rods in relation to rings did not influence the loads resisted at 0.5 and 1 mm displacement but decreased construct stiffness. Clinical Relevance - The use of hemispheric washers had minor effects on the biomechanical performance of fixator frames tested in this study when used to angle a ring in relation to connecting rods for circular external fixators.
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