Internal fixators with angular stability have been developed to provide high stability without compression of the plate on to the bone. Angular and axial stability of a plate-screw construct can be achieved using a conically threaded screw head undersurface and a corresponding conically threaded plate hole. Furthermore, the insertion angle of the screw must correspond precisely to the axis of the screw hole. This is not always achieved in clinical practice and may result in screw loosening. The objective of this study was to examine the relationship between the stability of the locked screw-plate on the insertion angle of the screw.

Locking screws were inserted in an isolated (Point Contact Fixator, PC-Fix) or combined (Locking Compression Plate, LCP 4.5) locking hole with the use of an aiming device. The optimal insertion angle for these plates is perpendicular to the plate surface. The screws were inserted with an axis deviation of 0 degrees (optimal condition), 5 degrees , and 10 degrees respective to the optimal angle (variance +/- 1 degrees ). The samples were tested under shear or axial (push out) loading conditions until failure occurred. An Instron materials testing machine was used.

Locking screws inserted in the isolated locking hole (PC-Fix) showed a significant decrease of failure load if inserted at 5 degrees and 10 degrees angle. Using an optimal insertion angle (0 degrees ), failure load was 1480 +/- 390 N, with 5 degrees axis deviation 780 +/- 160 N, P = 0.0001, and with 10 degrees axis deviation 550 +/- 110 N, P = 0.0001. Screws inserted in the combined locking hole (LCP) also showed a significant decrease of push-out force of 77% (4960 +/- 1000 N versus 1120 +/- 400 N) with 10 degrees axis deviation. Compared to optimal insertion angle (0 degrees ), bending load to failure did decrease up to 69% (1240 +/- 210 N vs. 390 +/- 100 N) with 10 degrees axis deviation.

A locking head screw exhibits high stability with a moderate axis deviation in the angle of insertion of up to 5 degrees . However, there is a significant decrease in stability with increasing axis deviation (>5 degrees ). An aiming device is recommended to provide optimal fixation with angular stability.