Locking plates are an alternative to conventional compression plate fixation for diaphyseal fractures. The objective of this study was to compare the stability of various plating with locked screw constructs to conventional nonlocked screws for fixation of a comminuted diaphyseal fracture model using a uniform, synthetic ulna. Locked screw construct variables were the use of unicortical or bicortical screws, and increasing bone to plate distance.

This biomechanical study compared various construct groups after cyclic axial loading and three-point bending. Results were analyzed via one-way analysis of variance. Displacements after cyclical axial loading and number of cycles to failure in cyclic bending were used to assess construct stability.

The constructs fixed by plates with bicortical locked screws withstood significantly more cycles to failure than the other constructs (p < 0.001). Significantly less displacement occurred after axial loading with bicortical locked screws than with bicortical nonlocked screws. Increased distance of the plate from the bone surface, and use of unicortical locked screws led to early failure with cyclic loading for constructs with locked screws.

These results support the use of plating with bicortical locked screws as an alternative to conventional plating for comminuted diaphyseal fractures in osteoporotic bone. Bicortical locked screws with minimal displacement from the bone surface provide the most stable construct in the tested synthetic comminuted diaphyseal fracture model. The results of this study suggest use of plates with unicortical screws for the described fracture is not recommended.