A Reliable and Reproducible Critical-Sized Segmental Femoral Defect Model in Rats Stabilized with a Custom External Fixator

Benjamin Kerzner, Hannah L. Martin, Michael Weiser, Gianluca Fontana, Nicholas Russell, William L. Murphy, Erik A. Lund, Christopher J. Doro

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Orthopedic research relies heavily on animal models to study mechanisms of bone healing in vivo as well as investigate the new treatment techniques. Critical-sized segmental defects are challenging to treat clinically, and research efforts could benefit from a reliable, ambulatory small animal model of a segmental femoral defect. In this study, we present an optimized surgical protocol for the consistent and reproducible creation of a 5 mm critical diaphyseal defect in a rat femur stabilized with an external fixator. The diaphyseal ostectomy was performed using a custom jig to place 4 Kirschner wires bicortically, which were stabilized with an adapted external fixator device. An oscillating bone saw was used to create the defect. Either a collagen sponge alone or a collagen sponge soaked in rhBMP-2 was implanted into the defect, and the bone healing was monitored over 12 weeks using radiographs. After 12 weeks, rats were sacrificed, and histological analysis was performed on the excised control and treated femurs. Bone defects containing only collagen sponge resulted in non-union, while rhBMP-2 treatment yielded the formation of a periosteal callous and new bone remodeling. Animals recovered well after implantation, and external fixation proved successful in stabilizing the femoral defects over 12 weeks. This streamlined surgical model could be readily applied to study bone healing and test new orthopedic biomaterials and regenerative therapies in vivo.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere59206
JournalJournal of Visualized Experiments
Issue number145
StatePublished - Mar 2019
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 Journal of Visualized Experiments.


  • Bioengineering
  • Critical Bone Defect
  • External Fixation
  • Issue 145
  • Rat Model
  • Regenerative Medicine
  • Segmental Bone Loss
  • Tissue Engineering
  • Translational Research


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