The multitude of fixation options for radial neck fractures, such as pins, screws, biodegradable pins and screws, locking plates, and blade plates, has led to a lack of consensus on the optimal implant choice and associated biomechanical properties. This study aims to evaluate the biomechanical strength of various fixation constructs in axial, sagittal, and torsional loading directions. We included biomechanical studies comparing different interventions, such as cross/parallel screws, nonlocking plates with or without augmented screws, fixed angle devices (T or anatomic locking plates or blade plates), and cross pins. A systematic search of MEDLINE (Ovid), Embase, Scopus, and CINAHL EBSCO databases was conducted on September 26th, 2022. Data extraction was carried out by one author and verified by another. A network meta-analysis (NMA) was conducted in accordance with the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-analyses guidelines. Primary outcomes encompassed axial, bending, and torsional stiffness, while the secondary outcome was bending load to failure. Effect sizes were calculated for continuous outcomes, and relative treatment ranking was measured using the surface under the cumulative ranking curve (SUCRA). Our analysis encompassed eight studies, incorporating 172 specimens. The findings indicated that fixed angle constructs, specifically the anatomic locking plate, demonstrated superior axial stiffness (mean difference [MD]: 23.59 N/mm; 95% CI 8.12–39.06) in comparison to the cross screw. Additionally, the blade plate construct excelled in bending stiffness (MD: 32.37 N/mm; 95% CI − 47.37 to 112.11) relative to the cross screw construct, while the cross-screw construct proved to be the most robust in terms of bending load failure. The parallel screw construct performed optimally in torsional stiffness (MD: 139.39 Nm/degree; 95% CI 0.79–277.98) when compared to the cross screw construct. Lastly, the nonlocking plate, locking T plate, and cross-pin constructs were found to be inferior in most respects to alternative interventions. The NMA indicated that fixed angle devices (blade plate and anatomic locking plate) and screw fixations may exhibit enhanced biomechanical strength in axial and bending directions, whereas cross screws demonstrated reduced torsional stability in comparison to parallel screws. It is imperative for clinicians to consider the application of these findings in constraining forces across various directions during early range of motion exercises, taking into account the distinct biomechanical properties of the respective implants.
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