Polyaxial locking plate fixation in distal femur fractures: A biomechanical comparison

Kenneth J. Wilkens, Shane Curtiss, Mark A Lee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

75 Scopus citations


Objectives: Uniaxial, first-generation locking plates have become increasingly popular for fixation of supracondylar femur fractures. Polyaxial plates are currently available, which allow for variable-angle screw insertion; however, the biomechanical integrity of these new locking constructs is yet unproven. This study compares the mechanical stability of a conventional locking plate with that of a new polyaxial design. Methods: A comminuted supracondylar femur fracture (AO/OTA33-A3) gap model was created in fourth-generation synthetic composite bones. Fixation was obtained with 2 different plate constructs: (1) a conventional locking plate (uniaxial screw heads threading directly into plate) and (2) a polyaxial locking plate (screw heads are captured and "locked" into a fixed angle using locking caps). Eight specimens of each type were then tested in axial, torsional, and cyclic axial modes on a material testing machine. Results: The mean axial stiffness for the polyaxial locking plate was 24.4% greater than the conventional locking plate (168.2 vs 127.1 N/mm; P < 0.0001). The mean torsional stiffness was also greater for the polyaxial plate (2.78 vs 2.57 Nm/degree; P = 0.0226). Cyclic axial loading caused significantly less (P = 0.0034) mean irreversible deformation in the polyaxial plate (5.6 mm) than in the conventional plate (8.8 mm). The mean ultimate load to failure was significantly higher (P = 0.0005) for the polyaxial plate (1560 N) than for the conventional plate (1337 N). Conclusions: The tested plate construct with its polyaxial locking screw mechanism provides a biomechanically sound fixation option for supracondylar femur fractures. The frictional locking mechanism allows maintenance of angular stability while affording the option of variable screw placement.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)624-628
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Orthopaedic Trauma
Issue number9
StatePublished - Oct 2008


  • Biomechanics
  • Femur
  • Locking plate
  • Polyaxial

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine


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