Evaluation of Key's hypothesis in the feline tibia: an experimental model for augmented bone healing studies.

J. P. Toombs, Larry J Wallace, D. E. Bjorling, G. N. Rowland

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


Key's hypothesis states that a segmental long bone defect 1.5 times the diaphyseal diameter exceeds the regenerative capacity of bone in skeletally mature dogs and results in nonunion. This hypothesis was evaluated in 5 adult cats with rigidly fixated segmental tibial ostectomies ranging from 1.25 to 1.52 times the diaphyseal diameter. Clinical, radiographic, and histologic data were obtained over a 12-week period. Healing was classified as mature bony union, clinical union, delayed union, or nonunion. Absence of a consolidating callus and instability after removal of fixation devices was found for all cats at 12 weeks. Scant formation of new bone within the gap was histologically evident for only 1 cat. In the remaining 4 cats, fibrous tissue and striated muscle predominated within the gap, and independent healing of the proximal and distal cut ends of the bone were observed. The occurrence of 4 nonunions and 1 equivocally delayed union indicated that Key's hypothesis overestimates the regenerative capacity of bone in the cat. Failure of this experimental model to produce clinical union within 12 weeks demonstrated that this model is a valid method of investigating augmented bone healing techniques that promote union within this period in the cat.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)513-518
Number of pages6
JournalAmerican journal of veterinary research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 1985


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