Clinical studies showed good results for a new custom molded material that could revolutionize the treatment of fractures allowing for better healing without side effects.
In most cases, surgeons opt for metal plates to treat and reposition a fracture, holding the different parts of the bone together to consolidate and thus repair it. Researchers have just found an alternative to this method, thanks to a new biocompatible material, that is, tolerated by the body. According to the study, published in the journal Advanced Functional Materials, this material is as resistant as dental composites, adapts better to fractures and is less toxic to the body.
More individualized treatment with the new material
The composition of this new material is based on a polymer – a large molecule – that is biocompatible. Scientists envision its use for the most difficult fractures to treat, such as the clavicle and ribs, while others can be treated with a cast. The advantage of this material is that it conforms to the shape of the bone, which allows surgeons to better individualize treatment. This also makes fracture treatment more comfortable for the patient, who can move the affected limb more easily. The metal plates commonly used are not customizable because they have predefined shapes. This often leads to complications: According to researchers, 64% of toe fractures treated with metal plates end up with complications that affect the mobility of the limb.
To remedy this, scientists have developed the AdhFix system, which uses this new material. The procedure goes as follows: Surgeons first insert the screws and then apply the new – still soft – material to the area to be repaired. They then match the shape to the bone and fracture and insert the screws. Once the position is validated, the material solidifies and remains permanently in the limb, just like metal plates. To validate their method, the researchers conducted tests on the broken hands of cadavers. The result: the material used withstood a variety of finger movements and flexions with different force intensities. And when they tested it on broken femurs of live lab rats, it resulted in better bone healing with no adverse effects.
Potential application in humans and animals
“No two fractures are the same, which is one of the absolute advantages of the material,” says Michael Malkoch, one of the authors. The surgeon can adapt the fixation plate to the shape of the patient’s bone and the fracture. And the hospital no longer has to store metal plates. Eventually, the scientists plan to use the device in both humans and animals. The next clinical trials, scheduled for 2023 and 2024, will focus on hand fractures.