Many different fixation devices are used to maintain the correction angle after medial open wedge high tibial osteotomy (MOWHTO). Each device must provide at least sufficient mechanical stability to avoid loss of correction and unwanted fracture of the contralateral cortex until the bone heals. In the present study, the mechanical stability of following different implants was compared: the TomoFix small stature (sm), the TomoFix standard (std), the Contour Lock, the iBalance and the second generation PEEKPower. Simplified loading, usually consisting of a vertical load applied to the tibia plateau, is used for experimental testing of fixation devices and also in numerical studies. Therefore, this study additionally compared this simplified experimental loading with a more realistic loading that includes the muscle forces.
Two types of finite element models, according to the considered loading, were created. The first type numerically simulated the static tests of MOWHTO implants performed in a previous experimental biomechanical study, by applying a vertical compressive load perpendicularly to the plateau of the osteotomized tibia. The second type included muscle forces in finite element models of the lower limb with osteotomized tibiae and simulated the stance phase of normal gait. Section forces in the models were determined and compared. Stresses in the implants and contralateral cortex, and micromovements of the osteotomy wedge, were calculated.
For both loading types, the stresses in the implants were lower than the threshold values defined by the material strength. The stresses in the lateral cortex were smaller than the ultimate tensile strength of the cortical bone. The implants iBalance and Contour Lock allowed the smallest micromovements of the wedge, while the PEEKPower allowed the highest. There was a correlation between the micromovements of the wedge, obtained for the simplified loading of the tibia, and the more realistic loading of the lower limb at 15% of the gait cycle (Pearson’s value r = 0.982).
An axial compressive load applied perpendicularly to the tibia plateau, with a magnitude equal to the first peak value of the knee joint contact forces, corresponds quite well to a realistic loading of the tibia during the stance phase of normal gait (at 15% of the gait cycle and a knee flexion of about 22 degrees). However, this magnitude of the knee joint contact forces overloads the tibia compared to more realistic calculations, where the muscle forces are considered. The iBalance and Contour Lock implants provide higher rigidity to the bone-implant constructs compared to the TomoFix and the PEEKPower plates.