A Mini-Invasive Internal Fixation Technique for Studying Immobilization-Induced Knee Flexion Contracture in Rats

* These authors contributed equally
This article has been accepted and is currently in production


Joint contracture, resulting from a prolonged joint immobilization, is a common complication in orthopedics. Currently, utilizing an internal fixation to restrict knee joint mobility is a widely accepted model to generate experimental contracture. However, implanting application will inevitably cause surgical trauma to the animals. Aiming to develop a less invasive approach, we combined a muscle-gap separation modus with a previously reported mini-incision skill during the surgical procedure: Two mini skin incisions were made on the lateral thigh and leg, followed by performing muscle-gap separation to expose the bone surface. The rat knee joint was gradually immobilized by a preconstructed internal fixation at approximately 135° knee flexion without interfering essential nerves or blood vessels. As expected, this simple technique permits rapid postoperative rehabilitation in animals. The correct position of the internal fixation was confirmed by an x-ray or micro-CT scanning analysis. The range of motion was significantly restricted in the immobilized knee joint than that observed in the contralateral knee joint demonstrating the effectiveness of this model. Besides, histological analysis revealed the development of fibrous deposition and adhesion in the posterior-superior knee joint capsule over time. Thus, this mini-invasive model may be suitable for mimicking the development of immobilized knee joint contracture.