The most common method for mandibular reconstructive surgery is the use of a Ti-6Al-4V fixation device and a fibular double barrel graft. This highly stiff fixation hardware (E = 112 GPa) often shields the bone graft (E = 20 GPa) from carrying the load, which may result in bone resorption. Highly stiff Ti-6Al-4V fixation hardware is also likely to concentrate stress in the fixation plate or at screw threads, possibly leading to hardware cracking or screw pull-out. As a solution for that, we have proposed and studied the effect of using a low stiffness, porous NiTi fixation device [1–4]. Although the stress in the fixation device is increased, using such low stiffness fixation hardware, is preferable to have an even higher stress on the graft in order to minimize the risk of resorption or hardware failure. We assume that preloading screws allows them to better engage the fixation hardware with the plate and the surrounding bone and causes an increased von Mises stress. The fixation device can be patient-specific and additively manufactured, such that the shape would match the outer surface of the cortical bone.

In this study, we modeled a healthy cadaver mandible via CT-derived 3D surface data. The mandible was virtually resected in the molar region (M1−3). The model simulated the result of reconstructive surgery under the highest chewing loading regime (i.e., 526 N on first right molar tooth [5, 6]) where reconstruction was done with either Ti-6Al-4V fixation hardware or patient specific, stiffness-matched, porous NiTi fixation hardware. The calibration of the material properties for this simulation was done using experimentally obtained data (DSC and compression tests) of Ni-rich NiTi bulk samples. The analyzed term in the finite element analysis was stress distribution in the cortical and cancellous bone. Porous NiTi fixation devices were also produced using Selective Laser Melting (SLM) using the geometry of the aforementioned cadaver mandible.

In this paper we have studied the effect of additional torque or preload on the performance of the fixation plates. The finite element analysis demonstrated that applying a preload to the screws increased the stress on the bone. Under similar levels of applied preload, the porous NiTi fixation device showed an increased level of von Mises stress in the bone, particularly in the graft. Additionally, the analysis indicated the higher level of stress on the bone surrounding the screws for the case of using NiTi, which could contribute to increasing screw stability. The fabricated patient-specific fixation hardware not only matched the shape of cortical bone but also contained the level of porosity that defines the appropriate modulus of elasticity.

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