Functionally graded 3D printed plates for rib fracture fixation

Richa Gupta, Lauren Judkins, Chet S. Friday, Joseph B. Ulsh, Stephen J. Kovach, Samir Mehta, Charles Tomonto, Guha Manogharan, Michael W. Hast

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Design freedom offered by additive manufacturing allows for the implementation of functional gradients - where mechanical stiffness is decreased along the length of the implant. It is unclear if such changes will influence failure mechanisms in the context of rib fracture repair. We hypothesized that our novel functionally graded rib implants would be less stiff than controls and decrease occurrence of secondary fracture at implant ends. Methods: Five novel additively manufactured rib implants were tested along with a clinically used Control implant. Fracture reconstructions were modeled with custom synthetic rib bones with a transverse B1 fracture. Ribs were compressed in a cyclic two-point bend test for 360,000 cycles followed by a ramp to failure test. Differences in cyclic stiffness, 3D interfragmentary motions, ramp-to-failure stiffness, maximum load, and work to failure were determined. Findings: The Control group had lower construct stiffness (0.76 ± 0.28 N/mm), compared to all novel implant designs (means: 1.35–1.61 N/mm, p < 0.05) and rotated significantly more about the bending axis (2.7° ± 1.3°) than the additively manufactured groups (means between 1.2° – 1.6°, p < 0.05). All constructs failed via bone fracture at the most posterior screw hole. Experimental implants were stiffer than Controls, and there were few significant differences between functional gradient groups. Interpretation: Additively manufactured, functionally graded designs have the potential to change the form and function of trauma implants. Here, the impact of functional gradients was limited because implants had small cross-sectional areas.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number106151
JournalClinical Biomechanics
StatePublished - Jan 2024

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biophysics
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine

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