Implant design parameters can greatly affect load transfer from the implant stem to the bone. We have investigated the effect of length or material of distal ulnar implant stems on the surrounding bone strains.
Eight cadaveric ulnas were instrumented with 12 strain gauges and secured in a customized jig. Strain data were collected while loads (5–30 N) were applied to the medial surface of the native ulnar head. The native ulnar head was removed, and a stainless steel implant with an 8-cm–long finely threaded stem was cemented into the canal. After the cement had cured, the 8-cm stem was removed, leaving a threaded cement mantle in the canal that could accept shorter threaded stems of interest. The loading protocol was then repeated for stainless steel stems that were 7, 5, and 3 cm in length, as well as for a 5-cm–long titanium alloy (TiAl6V4) stem. Other stainless steel stem lengths between 3 and 7 cm were tested at intervals of 0.5 cm, with only a 20 N load applied.
No stem length tested matched the native strains at all gauge locations. No significant differences were found between any stem length and the native bone at the 5th and 6th strain gauge positions. Strains were consistently closer to the native bone strains with the titanium stem than the stainless steel stem for each gauge pair that was positioned on the bone overlying the stem. The 3-cm stem results were closer to the native strains than the 7-cm stem for all loads at gauges locations that were on top of the stem.
The results from this study suggest that the optimal stem characteristics for distal ulnar implants from a load transfer point of view are possessed by shorter (approximately 3 to 4 cm) titanium stems.
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Accepted: March 19, 2007
Received: November 28, 2006
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© 2007 American Society for Surgery of the Hand. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.