Safe Lateral-Mass Screw Lengths in the Roy-Camille and Magerl Techniques: An Anatomic Study

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Study Design.Investigation of the mean safe lateral-mass screw lengths in the Roy-Camille and Magerl screw techniques in cadaveric cervical specimens.Objectives.To report the mean screw path length and to evaluate the relation of the screw trajectory to the nerve root in the Roy-Camille and Magerl screw techniques.Summary of Background Data.Potential injury to the cervical nerve root caused by too long a screw remains a major concern. Few studies regarding proper screw length and its relation to the adjacent nerve root are available.Methods.Fourteen cervical spines were used for this study. Each lateral mass from C3 to C7 was drilled according to the techniques described by Roy-Camille (right side) and Magerl (left side). The cervical spines were harvested from the cadavers, and the anterior aspect of the lateral mass and spinal nerve were exposed. The screw path length between the dorsal and ventral cortices of the lateral mass were measured. An additional measurement was taken from the ventral aspect of the lateral mass to the nerve root along the screw path.Results.The mean screw path length in the Roy-Camille technique decreased consistently from C3 (15.7 ± 1.7 mm) to C7 (11.3 ± 0.8 mm). The mean distance from the ventral cortex to the nerve root ranged from 1.2 to 2.3 mm, and the smallest value was at C7. The mean screw path length in the Magerl technique also decreased from cephalad to caudal, with a range of 15-16 mm at C3-C6 and a mean value of 13.8 mm at C7.Conclusions.A safe screw length is 14-15 mm in the Roy-Camille technique and 15-16 mm in the Magerl technique at C3-C6. A short screw may be used at C7 if desired.

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