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Biomechanical Evaluation and Preliminary Clinical Experience with an Expansive Pedicle Screw Design

Cook, Stephen D.; Salkeld, Samantha L.; Whitecloud, Thomas S. III; Barbera, Jose*

Original Articles

The advantages of pedicle screw fixation depend on their ability to retain bony purchase until the fusion mass is stable. Osteoporotic bone and removal and replacement of pedicle screws in revision procedures substantially reduce screw mechanical fixation strength and can lead to clinical failure. The objective of this study was to determine if an expansive pedicle screw design could be used to improve biomechanical fixation in bone of compromised quality. Axial mechanical pullout testing was performed on paired expansive and conventional pedicle screws placed in fresh, unembalmed cadaveric vertebrae. Bone mineral density measurements (made using a dual-energy X-ray absorption meter) were used to characterize bone quality. A preliminary clinical and radiographic evaluation of 14 patients was also performed at a minimum 2-year follow-up. The mean axial pullout force in bone of all qualities was increased 30% when the expansive pedicle screw design was used. This included an appropriate 50% increase in pullout force in bone of poor quality (low bone mineral density). The preliminary clinical and radiographic results were supportive of the biomechanical design rationale and mechanical testing. The results were similar to those expected for spinal instrumentation using pedicle screws, even though compromised bone was present in two thirds of the cases in which the expansive screw was used.

Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Tulane University School of Medicine, New Orleans, Louisiana, U.S.A.; and *Servico de Neurocirugia, Hospital General Universitario, Valencia, Spain

Received August 16, 1999; accepted December 2, 1999.

Address correspondence and reprint requests to Dr. S. D. Cook, Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Tulane University School of Medicine, 1430 Tulane Avenue, New Orleans, LA 70112, U.S.A. E-mail:

© 2000 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.