Originally developed and used by Martin Kirschner in 1909, K-wires have been in existence for just over a century. Since the original conception, many modifications have improved the Kirschner wire designs and how they are used in today’s surgical procedures. For example, different tips have been developed to accommodate specific fractures, surgical procedures and K-wire techniques. Also, numerous research studies have been conducted to assess the impact of tip selection, wire diameter and insertion methods on heat-related complications.

The early years of K-wires were typically used for skeletal traction and the method of application was hammering them through a pre-drilled hole in the cortex. Prior to his death in 1942, Kirschner developed a device that made it possible to manually hammer a K-wire.

With the refinements of Kirschner wires, veterinarians have adapted their animal surgical procedures to incorporate K-wires. By applying Kirschner surgical techniques, veterinarians have found it easier to repair broken bones with K-wires than with plates and screws. Because the K-wires can be inserted more quickly, the modified procedure reduces surgical operating time, which lowers the overall cost for pet owners.

K-Wire Timeline

1909Kirschner nails (Steinmann pins) were hammered through a pre-drilled hole.
1927Kirschner nails were substituted with the Kirschner wire (K-wire), which was inserted by drilling with the Kirschner wire – eliminating the need to pre-drill.
1942Kirschner wire is hammered into bone.
Some surgeons still drill the K-wire into bone.
1993Pneumatic hammer created to facilitate K-wire hammered insertion technique.
2006Wassenaar Research published: “Hammering resulted in a shorter insertion time and better fixation”.    (KW31)
Additional research in 2010 showed “significantly less death of osteocytes, which indicates less or even no thermal-related damage to the bone”.  (KW31)