Osteosynthesis surgery for rib fractures is controversial and challenging. This study developed a noval poly(ε-caprolactone) (PCL)-based biodegradable “cable-tie” fixator for osteosynthesis surgery for rib fractures. A biodegradable fixator specifically for fractured ribs was designed and fabricated by a micro-injection molding machine in our laboratory. The fixator has three belts that could be passed through matching holes individually. The locking mechanism allows the belt movement to move in only one direction. To examine the in vitro
biomechanical performance, ribs 3–7 from four fresh New Zealand rabbits were employed. The load to failure and stress-strain curve was compared in the three-point bending test among native ribs, titanium plate-fixed ribs, and PCL fixator-fixed ribs. In the in vivo
animal study, the sixth ribs of New Zealand rabbits were osteotomized and osteosynthesis surgery was performed using the PCL fixator. Outcomes were assessed by monthly X-ray examinations, a final micro-computed tomography (CT) scan, and histological analysis. The experimental results suggested that the ribs fixed with the PCL fixator were significantly less stiff than those fixed with titanium plates (p
< 0.05). All ribs fixed with the PCL fixators exhibited union. The bridging callus was confirmed by gross, radiographic micro-three-dimensional (3D) CT, and histological examinations. In addition, there was no significant inflammatory response of the osteotomized ribs or the PCL-rib interface during application. The novel PCL fixator developed in this work achieves satisfactory results in osteosynthesis surgery for rib fractures, and may provide potential applications in other orthopedic surgeries.
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