Wire tension in the Ilizarov system: accuracy of the wire-tensioning device

MA Watson, KJ Mathias, GP Ashcroft, N Maffulli, David Hukins, Duncan Shepherd

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

7 Citations (Scopus)


The Ilizarov fixator consists of tensioned wires that attach bone segments to a modular frame. The aim of this study was to establish the accuracy and precision of the wire-tensioning device supplied with the Ilizarov external fixation system. The device was used to tension a wire in direct opposition to a calibrated load cell. Five subjects tested three devices, at each of their four tension settings, in two separate sessions. Subjects could not see the true tension during the test. There were significant differences between the results for different subjects (p <0.01) and instruments (p <0.01) but not for different tension settings or between the two sessions. Overall mean measured tensions were 4.9 per cent (standard deviation, 4.4 per cent) below intended values. Tensions obtained at the maximum edge (completely occluded) on the scale markings were significantly (p <0.001) closer to the nominal values (mean discrepancy, 3.6 per cent) than those at the minimum edge (mean discrepancy, 17.6 per cent). Several factors influence wire tension. Tensioning devices are not identical and the results obtained with them depend on the user. If the scale markings are completely occluded, the discrepancy between intended and actual tensions of around 5 per cent is likely to be adequate for clinical practice since surgeons do not select the most suitable tension following quantitative data assessment, but rather it is a judgement based on surgical experience and consideration for the patient weight and expected level of activity.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)355-359
Number of pages5
JournalEngineering in Medicine
Issue numberH5
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2005


  • external fixation
  • Ilizarov
  • wire tension
  • tensioning device


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