Drilling resistance: a method to investigate bone quality

Purpose: Bone drilling is a major part of orthopaedic surgery performed during the internal fixation of fractured bones. At present, information related to drilling force, drilling torque, rate of drill-bit penetration and drill-bit rotational speed is not available to orthopaedic surgeons, clinicians and researchers as bone drilling is performed manually. Methods: This study demonstrates that bone drilling force data if recorded in-vivo, during the repair of bone fractures, can provide information about the quality of the bone. To understand the variability and anisotropic behaviour of cortical bone tissue, specimens cut from three anatomic positions of pig and bovine were investigated at the same drilling speed and feed rate. Results: The experimental results showed that the drilling force does not only vary from one animal bone to another, but also vary within the same bone due to its changing microstructure. Drilling force does not give a direct indication of bone quality; therefore it has been correlated with screw pull-out force to provide a realistic estimation of the bone quality. A significantly high value of correlation (r2 = 0.93 for pig bones and r2 = 0.88 for bovine bones) between maximum drilling force and normalised screw pull-out strength was found. Conclusions: The results show that drilling data can be used to indicate bone quality during orthopaedic surgery.