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PMMA-augmentation of incompletely cannulated pedicle screws: A cadaver study to determine the benefits in the osteoporotic spine



Pedicle screw pullout due to poor bone quality, mainly caused by osteoporosis, is a common problem in spine surgery. Special implants and techniques, especially PMMA augmentation, were developed to improve the fixation of pedicle screws. PMMA injection into a pilot hole or through a screw involves the same risks as vertebroplasty or kyphoplasty, regardless of the technique used. Especially when using fully cannulated screws anterior leakage is possible.


To prove PMMA injection is safe and possible without leakage through an incompletely cannulated screw and also increases pullout forces in the osteoporotic vertebra.


Incompletely cannulated pedicle screws were tested by axial pullout in human cadavers, divided into osteoporotic and non-osteoporotic groups. Non-augmented and PMMA-augmented pedicle screws were compared. Twenty-five human vertebrae were measured by DEXA and divided into osteoporotic and non-osteoporotic groups. In each vertebra both pedicles were instrumented with the new screw (WSI-Expertise 6 × 45 mm, Peter Brehm Inc. Germany); the right screw was augmented with a 3 mL PMMA injection through the screw. On each screw axial pullout was performed after X-ray and CT scan.


Radiographs and CT scans excluded PMMA leakage. Cement was distributed in the middle and posterior third of the vertebrae. Pullout forces were significantly higher after pedicle screw augmentation, especially in the osteoporotic bone. All augmented pedicle screws showed higher pullout forces compared with the unaugmented screws.


We minimized the risk of leakage by using a screw with a closed tip. On the whole, PMMA augmentation through an incompletely cannulated pedicle screw is safe and increases pullout forces in osteoporotic bone to the level of healthy bone. Therefore the new incompletely cannulated screw can be used for pedicle screw augmentation.