OBJECTIVES - To explore the effect of intramedullary pin size on the biology of a healing fracture, specifically endochondral angiogenesis. We hypothesized that fracture fixation with a smaller pin would permit greater interfragmentary strain resulting in increased total amount of vascular endothelial growth factor within the callus and greater angiogenesis compared to fixation with a larger pin.
METHODS - Transverse mid-shaft femur fractures in 8-week-old mice were fixed with either a 23-gauge (G) or 30-G pin. Differences in interfragmentary strain at the fracture site were estimated between cohorts. A combination of histology, gene expression, serial radiography, and microcomputed tomography with and without vascular contrast agent were used to assess fracture healing and vascularity for each cohort.
RESULTS - Larger soft-tissue callus formation increased vascular endothelial growth factor-A expression, and a corresponding increase in vascular volume was observed in the higher strain, 30-G cohort. Radiographic analysis demonstrated earlier hard callus formation with greater initial interfragmentary strain, similar rates of union between pin size cohorts, yet delayed callus remodeling in mice with the larger pin size.
CONCLUSIONS - These findings suggest that the stability conferred by an intramedullary nail influences endochondral angiogenesis at the fracture.