Role of soft tissues in metacarpal fracture fixation

Elizabeth Anne Ouellette, Jay J. Dennis, Edward L. Milne, Loren L. Latta, Anna Lena Makowski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


The contribution of soft tissues in stabilizing fracture fixation in metacarpals is appreciated clinically, but no quantitative biomechanical study of their role has been done. All previous studies of fracture fixation in vitro have been done on metacarpals denuded of soft tissues. To quantify the role of soft tissues in metacarpal fracture fixation, the biomechanical effectiveness of four fixation devices was examined in human cadaver metacarpals with and without soft tissues. Values were compared for three non-rigid methods (expandable intramedullary fixation devices, crossed Kirschner wires, and single half-pin frames) and one rigid method (dorsal plates) in 45 disarticulated metacarpals stripped of soft tissues (denuded) and in 46 metacarpals in whole hands with all soft tissues remaining (intact). Mechanical testing to complete failure in three-point apex dorsal bending was done in all specimens. Ultimate moment (strength) of each of the four fixation methods was significantly greater in intact specimens than in denuded specimens. Crossed Kirschner wires were most stable in intact specimens, and dorsal plates were more stable in denuded specimens. The results show that soft tissues contribute to the strength of fracture fixation. Clinically, surgeons may be able to use a less invasive fixation method than plating without compromising the strength of metacarpal fixation in patients whose soft tissues are not severely disrupted and the fracture configuration allows. Plating may offer optimum stability in patients whose soft tissues are damaged severely and provide less strengthening of the fracture construct.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)169-175
Number of pages7
JournalClinical orthopaedics and related research
Issue number412
StatePublished - Jul 1 2003

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine


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