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Different animal models are used as fracture models in orthopaedic research prior to implant use in humans, although biomechanical forces can differ to a great extend between species due to variable anatomic conditions, particularly with regard to the gait. The rabbit is an often used fracture model, but biomechanical data are very rare. The objective of the present study was to measure axial forces, bending moments, and bending axis directly in the rabbit tibia in vivo. The following hypothesis was tested: Axial forces and bending moments in the mid-diaphysis of rabbit tibia differ from other experimental animals or indirectly calculated data.
A minifixateur system with 4 force sensors was developed and attached to rabbit tibia (n = 4), which were subsequently ostectomised. Axial forces, bending moments and bending angles were calculated telemetrically during weight bearing in motion between 6 and 42 days post operation.
Highest single values were 201% body weight [% bw] for axial forces and 409% bw cm for bending moments. Whereas there was a continous decrease in axial forces over time after day 10 (P = 0.03 on day 15), a decrease in bending moments was inconsistent (P = 0.03 on day 27). High values for bending moments were frequently, but not consistently, associated with high values for axial forces.
Axial forces in rabbit tibia exceeded axial forces in sheep, and differed from indirectly calculated data. The rabbit is an appropriate fracture model because axial loads and bending moments in rabbit tibia were more closely to human conditions than in sheep tibia as an animal model.