Sacropelvic fixation is a continually evolving technique in the treatment of adult spinal deformity. The 2 most widely utilized techniques are iliac screw fixation and S2-alar-iliac (S2AI) screw fixation1-3. The use of these techniques at the base of long fusion constructs, with the goal of providing a solid base to maintain surgical correction, has improved fusion rates and decreased rates of revision4.
The procedure is performed with the patient under general anesthesia in the prone position and with use of 3D computer navigation based on intraoperative cone-beam computed tomography (CT) imaging. A standard open posterior approach with a midline incision and subperiosteal exposure of the proximal spine and sacrum is performed. Standard S2AI screw placement is performed. The S2AI starting point is on the dorsal sacrum 2 to 3 mm above the S2 foramen, aiming as caudal as possible in the teardrop. A navigated awl is utilized to establish the screw trajectory, passing through the sacrum, across the sacroiliac (SI) joint, and into the ilium. The track is serially tapped with use of navigated taps, 6.5 mm followed by 9.5 mm, under power. The screw is then placed under power with use of a navigated screwdriver.
Proper placement of the caudal implant is vital as it allows for ample room for subsequent instrumentation. The additional point of pelvic fixation can be an S2AI screw or a triangular titanium rod (TTR). This additional implant is placed cephalad to the trajectory of the S2AI screw. A starting point 2 to 3 mm proximal to the S2AI screw tulip head on the sacral ala provides enough clearance and also helps to keep the implant low enough in the teardrop that it is likely to stay within bone. More proximal starting points should be avoided as they will result in a cephalad breach.
For procedures with an additional point of pelvic fixation, the cephalad S2AI screw can be placed using the previously described method. For placement of the TTR, the starting point is marked with a burr. A navigated drill guide is utilized to first pass a drill bit to create a pilot hole, followed by a guide pin proximal to the S2AI screw in the teardrop. Drilling the tip of the guide pin into the distal, lateral iliac cortex prevents pin backout during the subsequent steps. A cannulated drill is then passed over the guide pin, traveling from the sacral ala and breaching the SI joint into the pelvis. A navigated broach is then utilized to create a track for the implant. The flat side of the triangular broach is turned toward the S2AI screw in order to help the implant sit as close as possible to the screw and to allow the implant to be as low as possible in the teardrop. The navigation system is utilized to choose the maximum possible implant length. The TTR is then passed over the guide pin and impacted to the appropriate depth. Multiplanar post-placement fluoroscopic images and an additional intraoperative CT scan of the pelvis are obtained to verify instrumentation position.
The use of spinopelvic fixation in long constructs is widely accepted, and various techniques have been described in the past1. Alternatives to stacked S2AI screws or S2AI with TTR for SI joint fusion include traditional iliac screw fixation with offset connectors, modified iliac fixation, sacral fixation alone, and single S2AI screw fixation.
The lumbosacral junction is the foundation of long spinal constructs and is known to be a point of high mechanical strain5-7. Although pelvic instrumentation has been utilized to increase construct stiffness and fusion rates, pelvic fixation failure is frequently reported8,9. At our institution, we identified a 5% acute pelvic fixation failure rate over an 18-month period10. In a subsequent multicenter retrospective series, a similar 5% acute pelvic fixation failure rate was also reported11. In response to these findings, our institution changed its pelvic fixation strategies to incorporate multiple points of pelvic fixation. From our experience, utilization of multiple pelvic fixation points has decreased acute failure. In addition to preventing instrumentation failure, S2AI screws are lower-profile, which decreases the complication of implant prominence associated with traditional iliac screws. S2AI screw heads are also more in line with the pedicle screw heads, which decreases the need for excessive rod bending and connectors.
The use of the techniques has been described in case reports and imaging studies12-14, but until now has not been visually represented. Here, we provide technical and visual presentation of the placement of stacked S2AI screws or open SI joint fusion with a TTR above an S2AI screw.
Pelvic fixation provides increased construct stiffness compared with sacral fixation alone15-17 and has shown better rates of fusion4. However, failure rates of up to 35%8,9 have been reported, and our own institution identified a 5% acute pelvic fixation failure rate10. In response to this, the multiple pelvic fixation strategy (stacked S2AI screws or S2AI and TTR for SI joint fusion) has been more widely utilized. In our experience utilizing multiple points of pelvic fixation, we have noticed a decreased rate of pelvic fixation failure and are in the process of reporting these findings18,19.
- The initial trajectory of the caudal S2AI screw needs to be as low as possible within the teardrop, just proximal to the sciatic notch.
- The starting point for the cephalad implant should be 2 to 3 mm proximal to the S2AI screw tulip head. This placement provides enough clearance and helps to contain the implant in bone.
- More proximal starting points may result in cephalad breach of the TTR.
- The use of a reverse-threaded Kirschner wire helps to prevent pin backout while drilling and broaching for TTR placement.
- If malpositioning of the TTR is found on imaging, removal and redirection is technically feasible.
Acronyms and Abbreviations:
- S2AI = S2-alar-iliac
- TTR = triangular titanium rod
- CT = computed tomography
- AP = anteroposterior
- OR = operating room
- SI = sacroiliac
- DRMAS = dual rod multi-axial screw
- K-wire = Kirschner wire
- DVT = deep vein thrombosis
- PE = pulmonary embolism